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Athenaeum. — "A useful contribution to our somewhat scanty sources of informa- 
tion about tracts of country invested at this moment with peculiar interest." 

St James's Gazette. — " A very varied and fascinating story of travel in some of 

the most interesting quarters of Asia The picture of the capital of Seistan, where, 

within the last couple of years, a British Agent has been established, and of the covert 
conflict of Russian and British interests in this important strategic province are very 
interesting to the student of international politics, as well as for the sake of the 
entertaining narrative itself. Excellent, too, is the account of the big-game shoot- 
ing in the Himalayan highlands." 

Pall Mall Gazette. — " We hope Lord Ronaldshay's book will help sluggish thinkers 
at home to realise how deeply we are involved, and how little we can ajfford to relax 
our influence on the region that lies between the Afghan frontier and the Persian 

Civil and Military Gazette. — "A bright and amusing book of travel The 

style is chatty and unpretentious, and the volume will be welcome to those who are 
wearied of the rigmarole of political theses which constitutes the stock-in-trade of 
the present day magazine-article writer when he discourses upon the affairs of foreign 
countries. The photographs — the author's own— with which the book is illustrated 
are excellent throughout." 

Times. — " Two themes there are which have justified the existence of many books 
of travel and seldom fail to wake a sympathetic echo in the mind of the Englishman. 
A passion for sport and a taste for politics are innate in him, and a book which 
reminds him of either fact or both does not generally make its appeal in vain. Lord 
Ronaldshay's book, as its title declares, avowedly makes this appeal ; and by a grati- 
fying simplicity of arrangement sport and politics are relegated to distinct halves of 
it, so that in perusing it neither the sportsman nor the politician need, unless he 
chooses, enter upon alien ground His story is an effective, if involuntary, testi- 
mony to his pluck and powers of endurance, which, on the whole, were very well 
rewarded. It will probably attract others besides sportsmen, for the wild regions 
above Kashmir and on the confines of Chinese Tibet always fascinate the reader, and 
Lord Ronaldshay's narrative, while making no pretentions to literary adornment, 
shows that he felt a delighted sympathy with the spirit of the vast solitudes through 
which he wandered, and — more essential still — that he really describes things as he 
saw them." 

Westminster Gazette. — "Lord Ronaldshay's volume stands out from the average 
sportsman's record. First of all, there is a ring of enthusiasm for the lonely heights 
and the beauty of the wilderness throughout the whole book, which is very refreshing 
in its boyishness and candour. Next, the roads ch'osen, first on Asiatic hill- tops, and 
afterwards from Simla through Beluchistan and the Caspian by land to London, are 
almost entirely off what is now becoming the beaten track of the hunter of big game ; 
and last, but not least, the author's dauntless and cheerful perseverance in excep- 
tional hardships and trials of patience, lend a peculiar interest to every page." 

Spectator. — " Lord Ronaldshay has achieved a rare success ; he has written a good 
book of ^ travels. The style is simple and well suited to the matter ; the interest is 
not sacrificed to a pretence of fine writing ; and the author has sufficient literary 
sense to produce the effect at which he aims, whether he writes as a sportsman or a 

WILLIAM BLACKWOOD & SONS, Edinburgh and London. 









" It is in Asia once again that will be decided the destinies of the world. 
In Asia will be founded and will increase great empires, and whoever 
succeeds in making his voice heeded in the Far East will be able also to 
speak in dominating accents to Europe." — Prince Henri d'Orleans: 
Around Tonkin. 


All Rights reserved 



The object and scope of the present volume are set 
forth at suiB&cient length in the opening chapter, 
and no further explanation on this score is required 
from me here. With regard to arrangement, it has 
been my endeavour to place before the public an 
account of some of the less accessible countries of 
Asia and of the problems to which their existence 
and present position give rise, which may appeal 
equally to the general reader and to the student of 
Eastern questions. With this object in view I have 
caused to be inserted a number of illustrations, 
reproductions in every case of photographs taken by 
myself, in the hope that they may prove of assistance 
to the reader in forming a mental picture of the 
countries and peoples that I describe. The countries 
through which I passed being many and various, I 
have divided the volume into sections, each one of 
which may be read without reference to the others. 
In Section I. will be found a synopsis of the chapters 
that follow ; in Sections II. -YI. a description of a 
journey the length of an ancient continent ; and in 



the concluding section some account of the political 
situation in the East with which this country is con- 
fronted at the present time. Sections II. -VI. may be 
said to consist in the main of a narrative of travel, 
and, since my wanderings led me at one time through 
an unrivalled sporting country, I have not hesitated 
to include among them a section upon sport ; but 
though devoted largely to a description of travel, 
some political questions — the Baghdad railway problem 
to wit — are discussed in them, something of history 
is recalled, and such information as my inquiries in 
various directions elicited is adduced for the benefit 
of all who take a close interest in the peoples and 
politics of Asia. It has been said of travellers — not 
altogether without reason perhaps — that they forget 
much that they have seen, and remember much that 
they have not ! If I plead guilty to the former 
charge, I may, I hope, in my own case conscientiously 
take exception to the latter, since it has been my 
practice, whenever seeing anything of interest or learn- 
ing anything of importance from reliable sources, to 
take instant note of it upon the spot. 

It is, perhaps, hardly necessary for me to add that 
I am indebted to many for much willing help and 
sympathetic interest shown to me by my own country- 
men and by foreigners alike, whether official or other- 
v/ise, whenever my wanderings have brought me in 
contact with them in the remote corners of the East. 
In this connection it is also my pleasant duty to 
acknowledge my indebtedness to the proprietors of 
* The Times ' for the ready assent which they gave 



to my request to be permitted to make use in the 
present volume of articles from my pen which have 
already appeared in their columns. 

In conclusion, may I express the hope that there 
may be found in the following pages sufficient of 
interest to evoke from the reading public the same 
indulgent reception for this, my second and more 
ambitious volume, that they so readily accorded to 
my first. 


August 1904. 





Object of the book — Length of journey and method of travel — The 
desert — A site of ancient monarchies — Discomfort of travel — The 
spell of the East — To the heart of Asia by rail — Performance at 
a mosque — Monuments of the past — Central Asian post-roads — 
Beyond the bounds of Russia — A great trans-continental railway 
— The political aspect — The return of the "West to the East — The 
remnants of Portuguese supremacy — The awakening of Russia — 
The Powers in Asia — The objects of Great Britain and of Russia 
— The policy of Tsar Nicholas I. — Failure of the same — Ineptitude 
of British policy in the past — Importance of British interests in 
the East — Lord Curzon's views — The necessity of looking Asiatic 
problems in the face ....... 3 



Constantinople — The romance of the city on the Golden Horn — The 
reality — Monuments of interest — The gulf between Europe and 
Asia — Peculiarities of the East — The Haider-Pasha Ismid railway 
— A climb to the Anatolian plateau — Lack of comfort on the 
present Anatolian railway — Probabilities of the future — Konia — 
Its streets — Improvement in the district under the adminstration 
of Ferhit Pasha . . . . . . .27 





Difficulties of travel in the winter — An Eastern road — The Axylon 
plateau — Off the road at night — Eregli — Through the Taurus 
mountains — The defile at Bozanti — A pleasant Christmas ! — A 
silver mine — Death of a kaimakam — Bad weather — The Cilician 
Gates — An ancient highway of nations — The trac^ of the future 
railway not through the Gates — Reach the Cilician plain and 
Mersina ........ 34 



Cilicia, ancient and modern — Mersina, a typical seaport of the Near 
East — Natural disadvantages as a port — The ancient harbour of 
Tarsus — The ruins at Soli Pompeiopolis — St Paul's Institute at 
Tarsus — Course of the Cydnus diverted by Justinian — The Dinek 
Tash — Fallacy of the legend that it is the tomb of Sardanapalus 
— Relics at Tarsus — The site of the ancient capital — Adana, 
capital of Cilicia — Description of — Population of — The American 
mission — Turkish rule — Want of public works — Instances of 
official corruption — The cotton industry — Climate — Leave Adana 
— Ruined castles — A gorgeous sunset — Nature of Eastern Cilicia 
— Across the Giaour Dagh — Excavations at Zingerli — Reach 
Aleppo ........ 41 



Aleppo — Its bazaars — Population — Importance as a distributing 
centre — More tales of Turkish administration — Routes between 
Aleppo and Mossul — The northern route — The southern route — 
The proposed railway route — Internal disorder — Reason for 
travelling by southern route — Start from Aleppo — Nature of 
country — A long march and a scanty dinner — Meskineh — The 
lands of the Euphrates — Historical interest of the river banks — 
Deir — A visit from a Turkish colonel — I secure an escort — 
Road-making — The disadvantages of an absence of road . 53 



Crossing the Euphrates — The monotonous desolation of the country 
— A surprise — A band of Arab marauders — A peaceful conclusion 



— Arab propensities — The river Gozan of the Old Testament — 
Crossing the Khabur river — The Mesopotamian steppe — A well 
in the desert — Eeach the Jebel Sinjar — The Yezidis — A punitive 
expedition — An uncomfortable night — The country between Jebel 
Sinjar and the Tigris — The aspect of Mesopotamia in spring and 
in summer — Description by Sir Henry Layard . . .62 



Curiosity concerning the past — Collections of ancient records — Time 
the destroyer — Koyunjik and Nebi Yunus — Nimrud — The Ger- 
mans at Babylon — Mossul — Down the Tigris on a raft — A useful 
escort ! — Samara and its objects of pilgrimage — The Malwiyeh — 
Latent wealth of the lands of the Tigris — Sir William Willcock's 
scheme — British Government must interest themselves — Chaldsea 
described by Herodotus — Reach Baghdad — The romance of Bagh- 
dad is of the past — A guffa — Described by Herodotus — Baghdad 
a commercial centre — Shortcomings of the Turkish Government 
— Fate of a public benefactor — Trade of Baghdad — Lack of trans- 
port — Extraordinary rates of freight — Great Britain must control 
the country from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf . . .70 



Railway projects in the past — The success of Germany — Lack of 
interest of British Government in the past — English concessions 
pass to other countries — The prophecy of the deputation of 1857 
— The German Commission of 1899 — The concession of 1902 — 
Proposed route of the line — Branch lines — Description of the 
country through which the line will pass — The Taurus barrier — 
Possibilities of Asia Minor — Lawlessness of Mesopotamia — Im- 
portant towns all lie to the north — The right bank of the Tigris 
preferred to the left — Centres of pilgrimage — Points to be re- 
membered in criticising the line — The financial prospect — Inter- 
national complications — Germanophobia in England — The line as 
an alternative route for the Indian mails — The conditions upon 
which Great Britain must insist as essential to her co-operation — 
The position of Great Britain with regard to the railway — The 
state of affairs at the present time . . . .84 






Persian characteristics — Methods of travel in Persia — Interesting 
monuments of Western Persia — Nature of country on the 
Turkish border — The legends of Shirin — Man walled up alive — 
The Darcy concession — A strange dinner-party — The ascent to 
the Persian highlands — A late winter — Reach Kermanshah — 
Strategic position of — Population — Persian amenities ! — The 
nakarreh khaneh — The rock sculptures of Bostan — Description of 
— Inscriptions — Disfigurement of panels — Opinion of the late 
Shah concerning — Other remains ..... 107 



Remains at Kangavar — The inscriptions at Bisitun — Deciphered by 
Sir H. Rawlinson — Description of the tablet above the inscrip- 
tions — Ker Porter's surmise — Names and identities — Another in- 
scription — The country between Kermanshah and Hamadan — 
Hamadan — Population — Trade — The tombs of Esther and Mor- 
decai — The tomb of Avicenna — A beautiful mosque — The Ganj- 
nameh — A stone lion — The key to the decipherment of the 
cuneiform alphabet — Gold — The question of the site of Ecbatana 
of Deioces — The debauches of Alexander the Great — The decay 
of Hamadan — The country between Hamadan and Teheran — 
Execrable weather — Discomforts of travel — Reach Teheran . 121 



Recent improvements at Teheran — The city gates — Days of mourn- 
ing — Interview with the Shah and with the Prime Minister — A 
visit to the palace — A motley collection ! — The picture-gallery — 
An extraordinary ceremony — Religious plays — Nature of the 
country round the capital . . . . . .132 




PERSIA IN 1903. 

"Tariffs" — Negotiations leading to a revision of the Custom duties 
— Adverse effects upon British trade over-estimated — Present 
state of affairs due to British insouciance in the past — The treaty 
of Erzerum — Provisions of the new tariff— Effect upon Indian 
trade — Great Britain's reply — Events on the Afghan border — 
The MacMahon mission — Russian intrigue — Ways and communi- 
cations — The situation in the capital — The fall of the Prime 
Minister — A tribute to the British Minister . . .137 



The highroad to Persia — A contrast in scenery — Cost of the chausse 
— Disadvantages of — The object of Russia — A huge advertisement 
— What the Persian thinks — Leave Teheran — Persian methods 
— Teheran to Resht — The silk industry — Obstacles encountered 
between Resht and Enzeli — A false start — Off at last . . 147 



Civilisation again — The commercial aspect of Baku — A weird sight — 
Natural fire — An ancient fire-temple — The boilers of Balakhani — 
A hundred tons of oil a-day — " Spouters " — The interior of a der- 
rick — A calamity at an oil-well — Statistics of the oil trade — A 
high excise duty — Price of oil in London and in Russia . 155 



Origin of the idea of railway communication with Central Asia — 
The chimerical conception of M. de Lesseps — With the defeat 
of Lomakin, railway schemes are revived — Lack of suitable trans- 
port — General Annenkoff's line — England suspicious — The Pend- 
jeh incident — Renewal of work on the Transcaspian railway — 
Completion of the line — Leave Baku — Krasnovodsk — On board 



the train— Geok Teppe — A false report — The steppe in spring- 
Khiva— Merve— The Murgab branch to the Afghan frontier — A 
desert of sand— The bridge over the Oxus — Eeach Bokhara . 163 



New Bokhara — The fascination of Old Bokhara — Its bazaars — A 
picture for an artist's brush — A scourge of the East — Monu- 
ments of the past — The power of the King of Bokhara — The 
citadel — Its ancient clock — A piteous tale — Violent death — The 
State prison — Its jailer — The scene inside — Khanikoffs descrip- 
tion of the lower dungeon — The story of Stoddart and ConoUy — 
Nasrullah, King of Bokhara— The journey of Dr Wolff— The 
notorious vermin pit — Bokhara described as it is to-day — Authori- 
tative writers on Bokhara . . . . . .178 



Samarkand one of the great cities of Central Asia — The vicissitudes 
through which it has passed — Timur's capital — Description of 
Timur — Samarkand taken by the Russians — A brilliant episode 
— The buildings of Samarkand — The market square — A meal 
in the bazaar — The tomb of Tamerlane — The mosque of Bibi 
Khanum — The mosque of " the living king " — Ishak Khan — The 
end of the railway . . . . . . .192 



A Russian capital in Asia — Old Tashkent — Its capture by the 
Russians — Railway projects — The Tashkent-Orenburg line — The 
Tomsk-Tashkent line — Advantages of post-roads — Carriages pur- 
chased — Method of travelling — A post-house — Rate of speed at- 
tainable—The steppes of Turkestan— The life of the steppe — 
Tchimkent — The Chinese frontier — Through Semirechensk — 
The Siberian frontier — Monotony of travel — The character of 
the steppe borderland — Semipalatinsk — From Semipalatinsk to 
Barnaul — Reach Barnaul . . . . . .199 





Yakub Khan — Internal disorder in Kulja in the 'Sixties — Russian 
interference — A ghastly holocaust — Report of a Chinese official — 
Russian assurances — Tso-Chungt-'ang, a Chinee of "great stead- 
fastness of purpose" — The reconquest of Turkestan by China — 
Difficulties with Russia — Gordon summoned — The treaty of St 
Petersburg — What Russia gained — The position of Kulja to-day 
— Suidon — Kulja — Mineral wealth of the province — Tribes, 
sedentary and nomadic — Kirgiz and Kalmuk — The Chinese 
quarter — A visit to the Taotai — The future of Kulja — Russian 
intrigue with Tibet . . . . . . .211 



A sportman's paradise — The way there — A lengthy bargain — To the 
Oriyaas valley — Magnificent scenery — A Kalmuk Nimrod — A 
48-inch ibex shot — Stormy weather — An evil beast — Vengeance — 
A successful right-and-left — Marmots — The disappearance of an 
ibex — Its head secured — Extremes of temperature — The luck of 
ibex-shooting — A 51|-inch trophy — Kalmuk characteristics — 
Another 50-inch head — Flooded rivers — Back to Kulja — Horn 
measurements ....... 225 



The Altai — Mr Ney Elias observes numbers of large horns — Major 
Cumberland's expedition — The way to the Altai — Time occupied 
by the journey — Expense — Kosh-Agach — Nature of the country 
— My Kalmuk hunter — The "Happy Valley" — A depressing 
day — Rams sighted — A wounded ram — My first head — A move 
into Mongolia — A big ram in view — Officious females — Nature's 
spell — A desperate race — A terrible disappointment . . 24 





A gazelle shot — Pombo's obtuseness — A long stalk — A flat crawl — 
An anxious wait — A big ram wounded — Pombo's jubilation — A 
57-inch horn secured — A long ride in the dark — Ammon plentiful 
— A pack of wolves — Cold — A 55-inch ram shot — A right-and- 
left — Chase after a wounded ram — Stupidity of Kalmuks — The 
wounded ram brought to bag — Preparations for leaving the 
country — Horn measurements — Smuggling — Reach the Siberian 
railway ........ 255 



The Government of Tomsk — The Altai mining district — Nature of 
the country — An agricultural land — Three years' famine — The 
fallow-land system — Absence of English-made goods — The reason 
— The Siberian village — The Siberian peasant — The vodka curse 
— The Government vodka monopoly — Vodka statistics — Barnaul 
— A general store — The Altai highlands — Kosh-Agach — Russo- 
Mongol trade — The city of Tomsk — The mystery of Tomsk — 
Feodor Kuzmitch — The mysterious death of Alexander I. — 
"Alexander's House" at Tomsk — The university and techno- 
logical institute — Population and position .... 267 



The spirit of discovery of the sixteenth century — Yermak — The con- 
quest of Siberia — The treaty of Nertchinsk — Count Muravieff — 
Need of communications in Siberia — Early railway schemes — 
The Perm-Tiumen line built — The imperial rescript of March 
1891 — The cost of the Siberian railway — The price of a ticket 
— Western Siberia — The settlement of Novo Nicholaewsk — 
Dairy-farming — The junction for Tomsk — Deficiencies of the 
railway track — The monotony of the journey — Irkutsk — Its 
origin — Its present position — Its chief buildings — The gold- 
smelting laboratory ....... 282 





Russia's coup — The line to pass through Manchuria — Great Britain's 
reply — The Manchurian railway agreement — A journey over the 
Manchurian railway in the autumn of 1903 — Across Lake Baikal 
— The frontier of Manchuria — Calibre of the line — Kharbin — 
Military occupation — Article II. of the Manchurian Convention 
of 1902 — The ambitions of Kharbin — Magnificent crops — Dalni — 
Port Arthur — Russia's outlay in Manchuria — Niuchwang — The 
Boxer outbreak Russia's opportunity — The situation at Niuch- 
wang at the outbreak of hostilities — Mukden and Antung opened 
to foreign trade — Peking the end of the journey . . . 299 



England and Russia in the East — The point of view from which 
Asiatic questions must be regarded — " Without India the British 
Empire could not exist" — The value of prestige — The commercial 
and strategic aspects of the Near Eastern and the Far Eastern 
questions — Turkey — The long-standing antagonism between 
Russia and Turkey — Enter Germany — A novel solution of the 
Turkish imbroglio — The Baghdad railway — Persia — Resemblance 
between the Persian and Turkish problems — Indifference of Great 
Britain in the past — The financial blunder of 1900 — The Russo- 
Persian railway agreement of 1890 — A policy adopted — The Vice- 
roy's visit to the Persian Gulf and the Garter Mission to Teheran 
— The Koweit incident — Ways and communications — Activity in 
the field of commerce — The Nushki-Sistan route — The British 
Government should become shareholders in the Imperial Bank 
of Persia — ^The recrudescence of British power . . . 319 



A mystery-enshrouded land — Europeans who have seen Lhassa — The 
Sikkim Convention of 1893 — Waddell's definition of Lamaism — 



Sarat Chandra Das — Decision of the India Office — Failure of the 
negotiations for sending an official mission to Tibet — Tibetan 
aggression — Fatuous policy of the British Government — The Cal- 
cutta Convention of 1890 — Tibetan disregard of the Convention 
of 1890 — The sham of Chinese suzerainty — The views of the 
Government of India in 1899 — The Viceroy's letter to the Dalai 
Lama returned unopened — The appearance of Russia — A supposed 
Russo-Chinese convention — Negotiations at Khamba Jong — An 
advance to Gyangtse sanctioned — Tibetan belief in the support of 
Russia — Gyangtse occupied — The advance to Lhassa begun — 
The policy of the Government of India — A possible solution of 
the Tibetan puzzle — The case of Bokhara an analogy — The 
Tibetan dispute must be settled without reference to other 
Powers ........ 344 



Commerce of the Far East — Great Britain's ideal " the open door " — 
Russia's first mouthful of Manchurian territory — The second 
phase of the Manchurian question — Events following upon the 
conclusion of the treaty of Shimonoseki — England's isolation — 
Action of Russia, Germany, and France — The Port Arthur in- 
cident — British ignorance of Far Eastern conditions and afi'airs 
— The Intelligence Department — The duty of British statesmen 
to stay the ^sintegration of the Chinese Empire . . 365 


THE FAR EAST — Continued. 

The British awakening at Peking — The present value of Wei-hai-Wei 
— Germany at Kiao Chau — The reform movement — A dramatic 
coup d^etat — The Boxer outbreak of 1900 — A colossal scheme of 
regeneration — Russia's demands as the price of the evacuation of 
Manchuria — The Manchurian Convention of 1902 — Manchuria 
seen once more under the searching light of war — Points to be 
borne in mind in weighing the chances of Russia and Japan — 
Russian lack of organisation — Official corruption — Capabilities of 
the Siberian railway — The Russian army — The soldiers of the 
Mikado— ^MsMo— The patriotism of the people — Victory in the 
field likely to attend the Japanese forces — The fate of Russia rests 
with the Russian ^eop^e ...... 377 





The object of British policy — General Chapman quoted — Present con- 
ditions cannot be permanent — Professor Vambery quoted — India 
the fulcrum of British rule in Asia — Lord Curzon on the internal 
condition of India ....... 394 





VIEW IN THE THIAN SHAN .... Frontispiece 



A TURKISH ROAD ....... 34 



THE RIVER JIHUN ....... 50 



BAGHDAD ........ 80 

BRIDGE OVER THE DIALA . . . . . .110 

KERMANSHAH . . . . . . . . 116 


THE OIL-WELLS OF BAKU . . . . . .156 

KRASNOVODSK ........ 168 

GEOK TEPPE ........ 170 

BOKHARA ........ 180 


THE PRISON, BOKHARA . . . . . . .184 





KIRGIZ YURTS ........ 216 





PEKING ..... 





" Let us (since life can little more supply 
Than just to look about us, and to die) 
Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man ; 
A mighty maze ! but not without a plan." 

— Alexander Pope, Essay on Man. 



Object of the book — Length of journey and method of travel — The desert 
— A site of ancient monarchies — Discomfort of travel — The spell of 
the East — To the heart of Asia by rail — Performance at a mosque — 
Monuments of the past — Central Asian post-roads — Beyond the 
bounds of Eussia — A great trans-continental railway — The political 
aspect — The return of the West to the East — The remnants of 
Portuguese supremacy — The awakening of Eussia — The Powers in 
Asia — The objects of Great Britain and of Eussia — The policy of 
Tsar Nicholas I. — Failure of the same — Ineptitude of British policy 
in the past — Importance of British interests in the East — Lord 
Curzon's views — The necessity of looking Asiatic problems in the face. 

Look how wide also the East is from the West! The 
feverish throbbing centres of the West take small 
stock of those things which lie not to their hand : 
the call of the East comes for the most part un- 
heeded across the waste. Yet to those who listen is 
borne that hum which tells of mighty workings. 

The East, indeed, — the real East, that is, and by 
the real East I mean more especially those kingdoms 
of Asia which can still lay claim, theoretically at any 
rate, to political independence of the West, — is known 
by personal experience to comparatively speaking so 
small a portion of the English public that I make 
no apology, however humble be my credentials, for 
trying to arouse an increased interest therein, or for 
taking up my pen once again in an endeavour to lay 



before the public mind some idea of those countries 
of which I speak, and to call attention to some of 
those problems to which their existence has given rise. 
And I do so with all the more willingness because of 
my firm belief in the truth of those lines which I 
have caused to be inscribed on the title-page of this 
book, that it is in Asia once again that will be 
decided the destinies of the world ; that that nation 
which succeeds in making its voice heeded in the 
East will be able also to speak in dominating accents 
to Europe. If a further excuse for these pages is 
demanded, it may be found in the fact that it is 
comparatively few to whom is given either the time 
or the opportunity, or perhaps even the inclination, 
to put away for a prolonged period the ties which 
bind them to their own country and, leaving the 
highroad of convention, to strike deep along the 
devious pathways of alien and not always hospitable 

I have never attempted to deny that the countries 
of Asia have for me an extreme fascination, but at 
the same time it would be absurd to suggest that 
a journey such as that which forms the thread upon 
which the following chapters are strung — a journey, 
that is, of upwards of 10,000 miles by railway, steam- 
boat, raft, wheeled conveyance of many kinds, and 
pack-pony, through such countries as Asiatic Turkey, 
Persia, Transcaspia, Turkestan, Siberia, and Manchuria 
— is by any means one which is productive of unal- 
loyed pleasure and amusement. There is nothing even 
remotely amusing in long hours in the saddle at 
caravan pace across the desert steppe of Mesopotamia. 
On the contrary, there is a grim reality about the 
limitless and forbidding expanse of an Asian desert 
which inspires feelings of anything but merriment. 



The vastness of it fills you with awe, the silence 
and absence of life weigh heavily upon you, the 
hovering vulture and the staring white skeleton of 
pony or camel speak only of death. Everything is 
so real and so stern, you feel that to smile or to 
laugh would be impossible in these surroundings ; the 
inexorable reality of life and death is on all sides 
forced upon you. These are the lands where you 

" Fold your tents like the Arabs, 
And as silently steal away." 

But even the desert has an end, and haltingly at 
first and then with more confidence signs of humanity 
reappear. * The waters of a great river roll placidly 
by, the most priceless blessing in a thirsty and dry 
land. The bleak steppe-land is behind, and before 
you rise the remnants of mighty nations. The glory 
and magnificence, it is true, are of the past ; the 
present is squalid in comparison with what was. 
But the mounds beneath which lie buried all that 
remains of a remote antiquity stand imperishable wit- 
nesses of the splendour of a bygone age. Two thou- 
sand five hundred years ago Nineveh, the gorgeous 
capital of the Assyrian empire, fell never to rise 
again ; but the vast mass of debris which is to be 
seen on the left bank of the Tigris to-day is an 
object far more imposing than the collection of high- 
walled houses and narrow tortuous alleys, which make 
Mossul on the right bank a city of the unregenerate 
East. To the south the ruins of ancient Babylon tell 
of an age so remote as to bewilder the brain as it 
tries to gaze down the dim vistas of time at the 
achievements of a highly civilised race six thousand 
years ago, or peers uncertainly into that earlier period 
which hovers darkly through a legendary haze, when 



Cannes, the fish god, came up from the sea to teach 
wisdom to the children of men. Baghdad remains now 
as the counterpart of the old capitals of Shumir and 
Accad, but modern Baghdad is not the Baghdad of 
the 'Arabian Nights' or of the golden days of the 
Kalifate. It is, in fact, hopelessly commonplace, 
and is of chief interest to the traveller as affording 
him an excuse for a rest and the congenial society 
of his fellow-countrymen. The halo of romance over 
the Baghdad of our imagination has been dimmed 
by the exigencies of modern trade and commerce. 

As you journey eastward into Persia along the old 
highway from Media to Babylonia, you rise at one 
bound from the level plains of Assyria and Chaldaea 
to the elevated tableland of the Iranian plateau, 
ascending the rock walls of the historic " Zagros 
Gates." Here, on the western extremity of the Per- 
sian highlands, a series of gorges, mountain -ranges, 
and elevated plateaux confront you, forming a barrier 
as it were between the level stretches of Mesopotamia 
on the one side and the vast inhospitable reaches of 
Central Persia on the other. No difference will be 
found by the traveller in his mode of procedure, 
and as you ride slowly along on your daily march 
you agree with the sapient remark of the seven- 
teenth-century traveller, Ta vernier, that ''the best 
inns are the tents which you carry along with you, 
and your hosts are your servants that get ready 
those victuals which you have bought in good 
towns." There is, however, one great drawback to 
a tent, — you cannot always use it. You cannot 
pitch your tent in two feet of snow, and even 
hoisting it in six inches of mud is a doubtful ex- 
periment ; and then you must seek what accommo- 
dation is to be had in the seraij if there is one, 



or the shelter of some village hut if there is not, 
where you will probably have to put up with the 
supreme discomfort of having nothing but *'the un- 
divided twentieth of a shed to sleep under " ! 

One of the chief causes wherein lies the extra- 
ordinary fascination of the Near East is perhaps its 
associations with the peoples and the deeds so familiar 
to us from our earliest days, and the changelessness of 
the East which enables one to realise so forcibly the 
conditions of life as depicted in the graphic pages of 
the Old Testament. As you journey across the country 
in the region of the two great rivers, Tigris and 
Euphrates, whole chapters of Genesis assume a new 
meaning for you, and you realise how it was that 
" as they journeyed in the East they came to a 
plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt there." ^ You 
too have journeyed in the East and found a plain — 
the same plain — in the land of Shinar, for the land 
of Shinar is the Shumir of the inscriptions and the 
Chaldsea of to-day. 

As you journey over this plain you see spread out on 
every side the great stage on which was enacted the 
story told in the historical books of the Bible. Whether 
you pass by the river of Gozan, where Israel remained 
in captivity, or walk in the city of Sennacherib, or 
stand among the ruined halls and temples of Nebuchad- 
nezzar, or sit by the waters of Babylon, some portion of 
the great story is brought vividly before your eyes. 
You recognise, too, the local colouring which so sym- 
pathetically tinges the language of the Old Testament 
writers. It is only after you have toiled from dawn to 
sunset over the sand-strewn waste of an eastern desert 
that you appreciate the poetic beauty of such verses as 
" rivers of water in a dry place, the shadow of a great 

^ Gen. xi. 2. 



rock in a weary land/' ^ or that the vivid reality of that 
description which tells of " a land of deserts and of 
pits, a land of droughts and of the shadow of death, a 
land that no man passed through and where no man 
dwelt," ^ or of " the parched places in the wilderness, a 
salt land and not inhabited," ^ is brought home to you. 

For when recalling a picture of the lands of the Near 
East, the prevailing tint is always that produced by 
vast unbounded stony wastes, staring stretches of 
yellow sand, leprous patches of saline efflorescence, and 
gaunt ranges of barren mountains. The awful aridity 
of Arabia is only too prevalent throughout the thirsty 
East. But it is because of this intense sterility that 
verdure when it does appear appeals with a force unfelt 
perhaps elsewhere. The land is, in fact, a land of con- 
trasts which are startling, almost aggressive, in their 
suddenness. I know of no sensation which is quite 
equal to that caused by coming suddenly and un- 
expectedly, after a long day over a sea of sand under 
the rays of a burning sun, upon a vision of runlets of bub- 
bling water, terraces of bright green barley, and clumps 
of shady trees. There is no other contrast that I know 
of which strikes quite such divergent chords or excites 
quite such a revulsion of feeling. It is in such moments 
as these that you learn whence sprang the muse that 
stirred the Persian poets to give expression to their 
thoughts, that you understand why it is that gardens 
in the East are not beds of flowers and ornamental 
rockeries, but orchards of shady trees and rivulets of 
crystal water, and that you cease to wonder why it is 
that fountains of plashing water adorn the courts of 
princes and the palaces of kings. But proceed a few 
hundred yards on your way and the scene is changed ; 
go but a step beyond the influence of the water brought 

^ Isa. xxxii. 2. 2 Jq^ jj 3 jgr. xvii. 6. 



SO laboriously by the hand of man, and you have passed 
in a moment from life to death. The line is drawn as 
with a ruler, and until you stumble upon just such 
another oasis, you journey on through a lifeless wilder- 
ness. The oasis may be smaller or larger, but where 
water fails the result is for ever the same. Verily, as 
Lord Curzon has so aptly remarked, it is a land where 
" Nature seems to revel in striking the extreme chords 
upon her miraculous and inexhaustible gamut of sound." 

But there is still another note which is struck by 
a sojourn in the East — the note of pathos. The sight 
of failing vitality where once was power and strength is 
always a sad one, and here in the lands of the Near 
East time broods heavily over her cities. They look 
back with the dimmed sight of old age at a youth 
which has long since fled, and as they peer drowsily 
into the future they see nought but death hovering 
near, attendant on life which is all but spent. The 
heyday of youth is far past, and decay, indecorously 
encroaching ere life is yet extinct, warns them that 
they stand trembling on the brink of the grave. When 
power sits once more on the thrones where Xerxes and 
Darius ruled, it will not be the power of the East, but 
an intruder from the more youthful West. 

Passing from the Near East into the heart of Asia, so 
adaptable do you become under stress of the vicissitudes 
of travel you scarcely feel surprise to find that you are 
travelling by the aid of steam. Incongruous or not, the 
train is there, and you accept it as a matter of course 
and are thankful. In reality, when you come to think 
it over, it is hopelessly out of place. You may travel 
all over India by rail and think nothing of it. There 
there stretch vast networks of iron ways connecting 
populous towns alive with modern life, where you per- 
ceive the spirit of the twentieth century in unquestioned 



dominion. But here you have but a single, long, 
isolated arm stretching from the confines of Europe 
into the very heart of an ancient continent. Far more 
even than the plains of Asiatic Turkey or the plateaux 
of Iran, the vast solitudes of Turkomania or the steppes 
of Turkestan seem to you a world apart. As you are 
borne rapidly along you might, indeed, be travelling on 
some witch's broomstick in a fairy tale. Merve, Queen 
of the World ; Bokhara, the Noble ; Samarkand, the 
capital of Timur, pass before you in quick succession, 
overwhelming you with the magnitude of their asso- 
ciations. You gaze upon their sights and marvel at 
the strange stories which they tell, and you mix with 
their peoples for a while, and then pass on. And when 
you have passed on and they are no longer before you, 
you look back upon them as upon the figures of a 
dream. You may have mixed with them and talked 
with them, but you are not of them ; their world is not 
your world, nor yours theirs. 

I remember strolling through the bazaar of a town in 
the heart of Turkestan, loitering among the shops and 
talking to their occupants. I thought after all that 
they seemed very ordinary people, and not so very 
different from myself The same night I was present 
at a mosque, and before I left I knew that I was wrong. 
It was no pretentious building, — a plain structure en- 
closed on three sides by severely simple walls, and 
open on the fourth to the night. No objection was 
made to our presence — two Russian gentlemen and 
myself : we were, in fact, to all intents and purposes, 
ignored. When a sufficient number had arrived — they 
were members of a peculiar sect of dervishes — prayers 
were first intoned, the ends of their white turbans, 
emblem of the shroud, hanging down, and then a score 
or more knelt in a circle on the floor. The scene which 



followed was absolutely weird. Swaying their bodies 
frantically backwards and forwards to a common centre, 
they gasped out the words of some sacred formula. 
The hands of the clock moved slowly round, but the 
movement and refrain of that weird circle never ceased. 
^ From time to time fresh figures appeared mysteriously 
out of the night to enlarge the circle. Their arrival 
was hardly noticeable ; one only saw from time to time 
that the circle had increased. Seated in one corner of 
the mosque, I became hypnotised as I gazed fascinated 
at the ceaseless movement and listened to the mono- 
tonous refrain gasped out in jerks by its frenzied 
utterers. So great was the effect it had upon one's 
senses that when at length, with no word of warning, 
both sound and movement suddenly ceased, it seemed as 
though the world itself must have suddenly halted in 
its course. An interval followed, during which ex- 
hortations were read, rich in the flowery hyperbole of 
the East, until stalwart bearded men sobbed and 
groaned aloud under stress of their emotion. For 
an hour or more full play was given them, and then 
as the last speaker ceased the mysterious circle was 
formed once more. 

Looking back as I left towards midnight, it was to 
see the devotees working themselves up with the same 
monotonous repetition to a state of ecstatic exaltation 
once again. I have seen the howling dervishes at 
Cairo, and realised as I watched that their performance 
was for show. This was something diflerent — it was 
real. As far as we knew, no European had been 
present there before. Our presence was tolerated, but 
considered of no account. We were given a glimpse of 
the strange soul of a people, and as I drove home in the 
starlight and pondered on what I had seen, I thought I 
understood why it was that there were even now those 



among them who had never set foot in the Russian 
town, though that town had stood side by side with 
their own for upwards of thirty years. 

But apart from the fascination of the people them- 
selves, there is an indescribable interest in gazing upon 
the vast store of monuments which abound, and which, 
if good use has been made of the counsel of Francis 
Bacon to the traveller to carry with him also some 
card or booke describing the country where he travelleth ; 
which will be a good key to his enquiry," will each tell 
some strange story of the past. The mouldering walls 
of Geok Teppe tell of the ghastly horror of bloody war ; 
the prison of Bokhara recalls the cold brutality of the 
inhuman tyrants who once reigned ; the unrivalled 
ruins of Samarkand tell of the greatness of a Tartar 
king, while the very streets seem to whisper faintly of 
a magnificence now gone. And to the student of 
modern history the whole country repeats a tale of 
the overwhelming advance of a mighty Power from 
the north. 

Arrived at Tashkent, the Russian capital of Turke- 
stan, and finding no railway to take you any farther, 
you cast about in your mind for some other means 
of progress, and you learn that the post-road awaits 
you. Very good. This suggests at any rate speed, 
and remembering always the part of the world in 
which you are travelling, perhaps a certain degree 
of comfort. But I doubt if the reality altogether 
corresponds to your expectation. The best class of 
vehicle that is known on the Russian post-road in 
Asia is the tarantass, and it has no seats, neither has 
it any springs. The first deficiency is in reality an 
advantage, because it enables you to wedge yourself 
in with cushions and rugs between portions of your 
baggage in a more or less recumbent position; but 



the second is a palpable defect which never ceases to 
force itself upon your attention, more especially since 
the road for nearly the whole of its length is not a 
road at all, but merely a track across the steppe : and 
after you have driven close upon 2500 miles by this 
means, as I did, it is probable that you will be careful 
not to repeat the experiment, if by any possible means 
you can avoid doing so. Let it be at once admitted 
that travelling on Russian post - roads in Asia is a 
trial to both mind and body. 

Still you must be thankful even for this small mercy, 
for E/Ussia, unlike our own country, is not small — 
Siberia alone would comfortably take in the whole 
of Europe, with a few of its countries thrown in 
twice over — and there is no danger of your running 
over the edge in your haste. You may start driving 
in Russia and go on doing so in a straight line for 
days, and still find that you are in Russia at the end 
of them ; so I say, be thankful for these same post-roads 
in that they make travelling possible. 

And when you have driven day after day towards 
the rising of the sun, and have at last reached the 
bounds of the dominions of the Great White Tsar, what 
lies before you then ? Four million square miles of 
territory, the home of four hundred million souls, whose 
delight it is to believe that 'Hhere is only one sun in 
the heavens and only one emperor beneath the sky." 
A nation with a recorded history of close upon four 
thousand years ; a people that can boast of the oldest 
civilisation of the world, of an exclusiveness that even 
now bafEes the enterprise of the West, of the distinc- 
tion of having been responsible for that greatest 
phantasm of modern times, the Yellow Peril ; an empire, 
finally, which may yet, by involving the Powers of the 
twentieth - century civilisation in an Armageddon of 



nations, be the cause of the greatest cataclysm which 
the world has known. 

I only peeped at the mysteries which lie behind that 
veil, — to probe them would exhaust a lifetime, — gazed 
curiously for a moment at the Chinaman and his works, 
enjoyed some of the sport which his country so gener- 
ously provides, and then hurried north to see some- 
thing of the surprising railway which the will of a 
single man caused to be built across a continent. An 
imperial pen traced a memorandum on the report of a 
vice-governor-general,^ a special conference of ministers 
was summoned, a special commission received orders to 
make surveys, and the great Trans-Siberian railway 
came into being. In May 1891 his Imperial Highness 
the Grand Duke Tsesarievitch emptied a wheelbarrow 
of earth on the embankment of the future Ussuri line 
and laid the first stone for the construction of the 
Siberian railway : at the present time (1904) the 
traveller may step into his carriage at Moscow, and, 
with the exception of the short break at present neces- 
sitated by the passage of the Baikal, travel by rail, 
amid a luxury unsurpassed in any other portion of the 
globe, the whole way to Vladivostok, Port Arthur, or 
Peking. With a stroke of the pen the terrors of Siberia 
have been swept aside, and the capital of the Celestial 
Empire has been brought within nineteen days of 

Such is the aspect which Asia wears for the traveller. 

1 On a report drawn up in 1885-1886 by Count Ignatieff, the late Tsar 
traced with his own hand the following resolution : " I have read many 
reports of the governors-general of Siberia, and must own with grief and 
shame that until now the Government has done scarcely anything towards 
satisfying the needs of this rich but neglected country. It is time, high 
time ! " For details of the preliminary steps to the construction of the 
railway see the * Official Guide to the Great Siberian Railway,' published by 
the Ministry of Ways and Communications. 



But it can show another face. Those strange agglo- 
merations of sterile wastes and smiling oases, with their 
mouldering cities and unfathomable peoples, — Turkey, 
Persia, Afghanistan, Transcaspia, Turkestan, China, and 
Tibet, — familiar to a large majority but in name, pos- 
sess for a few a deep significance, and I have no hesi- 
tation in admitting that it is in the part which each 
is playing, or is destined to play, in the great silent 
struggle for supremacy in Asia which is even at the 
present moment engaging a far greater share of the 
attention and of the resource of the statesmen of the 
world than is apparent on the surface, that I find an 
interest far surpassing all other. 

For it is hither, to the promising theatre where still 
survive on doubtful equilibrium the decaying kingdoms 
of the East, that the Powers of the West are driven 
by forces altogether beyond control, for the furtherance 
of their ambitions, and it is here in the end that the 
fierce struggle for supremacy between representatives 
of two of the great divisions of mankind — the Slavonic 
and the Teutonic — must find its issue. The progress 
of events and the march of time serve only to make 
it daily more apparent to the observant, that in the 
continent of Asia lies the stage whereon the fate of 
empires will be sealed and their destinies fulfilled. 

The story of the return of the peoples of the West 
to those lands wherein was situated the first home and 
cradle of their race is one of absorbing interest, and may 
be said to have had its origin with the rise of a man 
who, born in a little kingdom occupying the south-west 
corner of Europe, was destined to set in motion a move- 
ment which even at the present day can scarce be said 
to have run its course, and which has already played 
a determining part in the destinies of the world. For 
it is to Prince Henry of Portugal, known to] history 


as Prince Henry the Navigator, that must be assigned 
the responsibility for the great movement of discovery 
of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, 
as a result of which, to use the words of his biographer,^ 
" India has been conquered, America repeopled, the 
world made clear, and the civilisation which the Eoman 
Empire left behind has conquered or utterly over- 
shadowed every one of its old rivals and superiors — 
Islam, India, China, Tartary." 

So it happens that it was the little kingdom of 1 
Portugal that first set rolling the ball of conquest from 
Europe to Asia, when her intrepid mariner Yasco da 
Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and sailed into 
the eastern seas; and it was the same kingdom that 
planted the first seeds of the future expansion of 
modern Europe in the Orient, when her conquering 
genius Albuquerque the Great laid hold of the out- 
posts of the East and raised his standards in Hindu- 
stan. Upwards of four centuries have rolled by since 
Bartholomew Diaz first showed to Yasco da Gama and 
his successors the way round the Southern Cape, and 
with them the brilliant though transitory period of 
Portuguese supremacy. The ever-revolving wheel of 
fortune has played truant to her former love, and all 
that now remain to mark the prowess of the pioneers 
are the crippled forts which frown down from the for- 
bidding heights of Muscat, and that ''monument of 
Chinese toleration and Portuguese tenacity," Macao, 
which for three hundred years was for foreigners the 
gate of the Chinese Empire, but which has been de- 
scribed at the present time as being not even an 
inspiring monument to the memory of a glory which 
is gone. 

The scene is changed ; the actors are not the same ; 

1 C. E. Beazley in his ' Henry the Navigator.' 



but the drama which is being played to-day is the 
evolution of the curtain-raiser which heralded the 
entrance of modern players on an ancient stage, and 
the stage, albeit adapted somewhat to the requirements 
of altered conditions, is the same stage upon which 
the grandees of Portugal rang up the curtain to an 
applauding and astonished world four centuries ago. 

The actors, I have said, are not the same. Not 
even the innate inertia and lethargy of the Slav 
proved proof against the ambitious spirit of unrest 
awaked in Europe, and slowly, though for this very 
reason perhaps the more surely, the growing Power 
of Moscow bestirred itself, and looked out with inquir- 
ing gaze across the vast and unknown lands that rolled 
away from the threshold of its own domain into the 
dim distance of the mysterious East. Less than a 
century after the first exploits of the Portuguese 
discoverers, Russia had set out upon that path 
which has since led her the length of a continent. 
The trail of the Slav across Asia from the west is the 
natural complement of the fiery invasions of Jengis 
Khan and Timur from the East ; the results of the 
former are likely to prove equal, if not to surpass, in 
importance — certainly in permanency — those of the 
latter, though the methods employed to obtain them 
have been difierent. For while the thundering tread 
of armies and the smell of battle and of fire, the wail 
of the widow and the cry of anguish of the vanquished, 
are the dominating features of the one, the slow and 
irresistible advance of a people is the leading aspect 
of the other. Episodes of violence there have been, 
as the records of the holocaust of Geok Teppe, or of 
the frenzied garrison who rang a bloody tocsin so 
lately as 1900 at Blagoveschensk, proclaim ; but 
episodes such as these, though casting a lurid light 




across the path of the Russian advance, appear but 
details when examined in true perspective in a correct 
presentation of the achievements of three centuries. 
Russian soldiers, Russian sappers, and Russian engin- 
eers have moved forward, it is true, but more than this, 
the Russian peasant has moved forward too ; and it 
should never be forgotten in dealing with the Russian 
advance across Asia that whereas it is only " diplomats 
and statesmen, who must deal with temporary situa- 
tions, that need be deeply concerned with the purely 
military advance of any nation, when a people move 
forward it is a circumstance of world-wide significance, 
and it is of especial and practical concern to every 
people upon whose interests that advance impinges, or 
whose future in any direction that advance affects." ^ 
Russia has come to the Pacific, and she has come to 

It is Russia, then, whom we see in the title-role in 
Northern Asia. It should be hardly necessary to add, 
even for the benefit of the most casual Englishman, 
that ever since the days of " the Great Commoner " it 
is the star of Britain that has been in the ascendant 
throughout the south. A strong cast, it must be 
admitted, with England and Russia in the leading 
parts, and America, Japan, Germany, and France 
(with Belgium understudying one of the two lead- 
ing performers) starred as the lesser lights upon the 
bill. And the denoiiment will be in every way worthy 
of the players. 

How is it with the two leading lights ? Is it com- 
munity of interest or irreconcilable antagonism that 
characterises their mutual progress ? It would be 
absurd to attempt to deny that the two forces 
which are of chief account in shaping the course of 

1 The Russian Advance. A. J. Beveridge. 

.f ... 



events in Asia are actuated by motives diametrically 
opposed. The policy of the one has for its object the 
opening of fields to the commerce of the world, and 
political and strategic supremacy in such parts as are 
of vital importance to the safeguarding of her exist- 
ing dominions and those lines of communication which 
stretch from one part of the empire to another ; that 
of the other territorial aggrandisement, closed markets, 
and political prestige. 

It may be perfectly true that a century ago his 
most gracious Majesty King George III. remarked, on 
bidding farewell to the Russian ambassador Count 
WorontzofF, that it would be necessary to take leave 
of common - sense, and to enter into the world of 
chimeras, to suppose that there could exist any 
alliance in the world more natural or more solid 
than that between Russia and Great Britain ; that as 
their geographical position, which was the basis of 
their union, could not change, their union should be 
eternal. But if so, it is equally true that in this 
instance, at any rate, his Majesty showed a serious 
deficiency of foresight, for the very thing which he 
supposed impossible has come to pass — their geo- 
graphical position has changed. Great Britain in 
India has become a Continental nation. Russia has 
since that day annexed a whole series of territories, 
which may without exaggeration be described as the 
heart of a continent. A whole congeries of independ- 
ent states have one after another been absorbed, until 
at the present time the thousands of square miles 
which, in the days of King George, separated Russian 
and British dominion have been reduced to a mere 
strip in comparison, comprising the kingdoms of 
Persia and Afghanistan and the Chinese dependency 
of Tibet. At one point, indeed, in the shadowy 



region of the Pamirs, Russian territory may be said 
to be coterminous with our own, though here, thanks 
to natural physical causes, we can afford to regard 
with equanimity the presence even of so powerful a 
neighbour as Russia, for, as Sir Thomas Holdich so 
pertinently puts it, " an independent untouched Kafir- 
stan is about as solid an obstacle between ourselves 
and the Oxus basin as could well have been devised, || 
as indeed Tamerlane found and recorded for the 
benefit of his successors." ^ 

If the policy as laid down by Tsar Nicholas I. had 
been carried out, a policy which had for its object the 
prevention of the possibility of conflict between two 
Powers " who to remain united require to remain 
separated," by scrupulously preserving the peaceful 
condition of the intermediate countries, by consolidat- i 
ing the tranquillity of these countries, by confining the 
rivalry to commerce, and by refraining from engag- 
ing in a struggle for political influence, — above all, 
by respecting the independence of the intervening 
countries, then the whole question of Anglo-Russian 
relations might have presented an entirely different 
aspect to what it does to-day. But the policy was 
doomed from the first. Russia, defeated in her 
endeavour to become possessed of the keys of the 
Bosphorus, turned her eyes eastward, for there, 
through the little-considered kingdoms of the Near 
East, might she not find a backway that would lead 
to the goal upon which her heart was set? 

Incidentally a great field presented itself for the 
civilising influence of a Christian Power ; law and 
order were held in defiance in the countries which 
bordered on her own, each step forward necessitated 
another to teach a lesson to the wild peoples who 

1 The Indian Borderland. 



successively became her neighbours, and so Transcaspia, 
Turkomania, Merve, Bokhara, Ferghana, and Zerafshan 
— the countries whose independence was to be so 
scrupulously respected — fell before the armies or the 
diplomatists of the Great White Tsar. At the same 
time there arose a man who breathed new life into the 
dry bones of Russian expansion and colonisation in the 
Far East, and from the day when Count Muravieff 
pricked the bubble of Chinese greatness, which had 
so dazzled the timid parties to the treaty of 
Nertchinsk, the forward trend of her policy has con- 
tinued unchecked, till now at the present day she 
frowns haughtily across the waters of the China Seas, 
and stands menacingly with fixed bayonet within 
striking distance of Peking itself 

On whom lies the blame? Hardly upon Russia, 
whose chief crime is repeated success. Indeed I shall 
be the first to pay tribute to the great work which she 
has done in the interests of civilisation wherever she 
has come in contact with the uncultured and barbarous 
hordes of Central Asia. Rather, if we have allowed 
another Power to acquire a position and a prestige which 
is harmful to ourselves, or to usurp a preponderating 
influence in the aflairs of those States which still enjoy 
a precarious independence as buffers between the two 
nations, should we not look to our own inaction in the 
past ? And if we do, we are bound to admit that it 
is the fruits of the much-vaunted policy of masterly 
inactivity, — a synonym for pitiable neglect, — which 
held so long and so disastrous a term of power, that 
we are reaping at the present day. 

There is little to be gained by indulging in useless 
lamentation for the past. We cannot undo what is 
already an accomplished fact, but we may learn wisdom 
from the lessons of history, and benefit therefrom as we 



set our faces to the future. What has to be faced by 
the present generation is the fact that Russia is there ; 
what has to be reahsed is that "the policy of masterly 
inactivity, admirably well adapted to the circumstances 
of an Asiatic kingdom standing alone, remote from 
Russia, and far apparently beyond the zone of Russian 
ambition, becomes inarticulate folly when applied to 
an Asiatic kingdom contiguous to and leaning on 
Russia." ^ The all-important question which sooner or 
later must be answered is, How long can Turkey, Persia, 
Afghanistan, Tibet, and, if we take the broadest view 
of the whole question, China, maintain even the 
precarious title to independence to which they can at 
the present time lay claim ? 

The rapidly increasing importance of the problem of 
Asia to the British people was painted in vivid colours 
by the present Viceroy of India in the course of a 
speech delivered at Calcutta on March 25, 1903. 
" Europe," he pointed out, " has woke up, and is 
beginning to take a revived interest in Asia. Russia, 
with her vast territories, her great ambitions, and her 
unarrested advance, has been the pioneer of this 
movement, and with her, or after her, have come her 
competitors, rivals, and allies. Thus, as all these 
foreigners arrive upon the scene, and push forward into 
the vacant spots, we are slowly having a European 
situation created in Asia with the same figures upon 
the stage. ... In Europe we are a maritime Power, 
who are merely called upon to defend our own shores 
from invasion, and who are confronted by no land 
dangers or foes. In Asia we have both a seaboard 
and a land frontier many thousands of miles in length, 
and though Providence has presented us on some 

1 Malleson's ' History of Afghanistan.' I have substituted the words " an 
Asiatic kingdom " for the " Afghanistan " of the original. 



portion of our land frontiers with the most splendid 
natural defences in the world, yet the situation must 
become more, and not less, anxious as rival or hostile 
influences creep up to these ramparts, and as the 
ground outside them becomes the arena of new com- 
binations, and the field of unforeseen ambitions." 

Is the true significance of the situation, thus set 
forth, realised by the English public ? Is the vital 
importance of preserving India from attack even dimly- 
felt by the people of Great Britain ? And still more, 
is the importance of her position on the line of these 
communications, which are the binding links not only 
between Great Britain and her vast commercial 
interests in the Far East, but also between Great 
Britain and her colonies of Australia and New Zealand, 
adequately appreciated ? There are Powers who would 
give much to occupy positions of advantage on the 
flank of these same lines of communication, these 
throbbing nerves of empire. 

I have ventured to express the opinion — an opinion 
based upon personal investigation on the scene of 
action itself, as well as upon the writings of others 
competent to pronounce upon such questions — that an 
undefined and vacillating policy in Asia is detrimental 
to our position throughout the world, and inconsonant 
with our high place in the councils of the nations ; 
and if the hope which I entertain, that a perusal of 
these pages may, in however small a degree, incite the 
reader to an increased interest in the problems which 
confront our country in the East, and may help, how- 
ever imperfectly, to expose the fatuity of the policy of 
those who are perpetually belittling the consequences 
of a precipitate flight before the aggressive advance of 
other nations, and who, with no doubt the best inten- 
tions, would have us give way at all costs before the 



ambitions, both expressed and implied, of those who 
are, and must remain, our rivals in Asia, be in any way 
fulfilled, my object in writing them will have been 

Let the people of this country — and by the people o 
this country I do not mean the select few who hav 
made a study of such questions — understand that a 
policy of unsupported diplomatic protest wnll not 
always prove efficient in retaining that position of 
supremacy in Southern Asia which is vital to our 
being, and let them be prepared, should it ever be 
asked of them, to enforce respect for their legitimate 
demands by a display of unmistakable intention. 
There is a fund of wisdom in the five short words, si 
vis pacem, ipara helium, and it is a wisdom which w^e 
shall do well to recognise. 


A land without any order, — 

Day even as night (one saith), 
Where who lieth down ariseth not, 

Nor the sleeper awakeneth ; 
A land of darkness as darkness itself 

And of the shadow of death." 

— Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 

" My name is Ozymandias, king of kings : 
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair ! " 

— Percy Bysshe Shelley. 



Constantinople — The romance of the city on the Golden Horn — The reality 
— Monuments of interest — The gulf between Europe and Asia — Pecu- 
liarities of the East — The Haider- Pasha Ismid railway — A climb to 
the Anatolian plateau — Lack of comfort on the present Anatolian 
railway — Probabilities of the future — Konia — Its streets — Improve- 
ment in the district under the administration of Ferhit Pasha. 

Constantinople ! 

What a whirl of thought the word awakens ! 
What stirring scenes it conjures up of wild romance 
and strange vicissitude ! It would indeed be strange 
if imagination were not fired or the pulses quickened 
on approaching the far-famed Turkish capital. For 
from the day, two thousand five hundred and sixty - 
nine years ago, when the enterprising little band of 
Greeks propelled their galleys up the Hellespont and 
landed on the shores of the Golden Horn to build 
their town, in obedience to the Delphic oracle, ''over 
against the city of the blind," up to the present 
time, when an Eastern potentate sits on the throne 
of the emperors of Byzantium, the stronghold of 
the gateway of two continents, whether as Byzan- 
tium, New Bome, or Constantinople, has at all times 
woven a spell of fascination over the minds of men, 
and burned for itself in the scroll of history — as no 



doubt the Emperor Constantine intended that it should 
when he erected the golden milestone from which all 
the distances of the eastern world were in future to 
be measured — an indelible reputation as the very eye 
and centre of the world. 

There is no need for apology, then, in admitting 
that, as I was borne rapidly towards the city on the 
Bosphorus, of which with far more reason than of 
Venice might it be said that — 

" Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee, 
And was the safeguard of the West " — 

the views presented by the frost-bound lands of 
Central Europe and the rugged mountains of the 
Turkish highlands sank into insignificance before the 
varying scenes of the ever-changing mental picture 
which unrolled itself before me. Visions of the early 
days of splendour of a city standing proud and alone, 
with all Europe behind and all Asia before," a home 
of prodigal magnificence and luxury, despite disastrous 
inroads from time to time of the legions of Persia, 
Greece, and Macedon ; of the gloomy days of depres- 
sion when the dark shadow of the great Power which 
had arisen in the West stole over the kingdoms of 
the East ; of the rise of a fallen city to a height of 
power and magnificence hitherto unknown, as the 
capital of the east Roman empire under Constantine 
and his successors ; of gradual decay with the decline 
and fall of the power of Rome, passing into the final 
collapse of the longest lived empire that Christendom 
has known when the Emperor Constantine XIV. fell 
gallantly fighting in the breach of the walls of his 
city ; and of a new era of barbaric splendour ushered 
in from the time when an Osmanli Sultan seized 
upon the city, and the cry God is great and 



Mohammed is His prophet ! " rang through the dome 
of the great church which had stood for thirty 
generations a monument of the greatness and piety 
of its founder, Justinian, — passed in bewildering suc- 
cession before me, till at length, as we drew up 
alongside of the platform of the station of Stambul, 
I was ready to exclaim, in the words of the old king 
Athanarich, ''Now do I at last behold what I had 
often heard and deemed incredible." 

Alas for all our dreams ! The glitter of my mental 
picture was not there : the reality was depressing in 
comparison. Dull grey-looking buildings loomed in- 
distinctly through mist as I was driven over execrable 
streets to the European quarter of the town. The 
rock walls of the Bosphorus, undoubtedly one of the 
most striking water passages in the world, were but 
faintly outlined through falling rain. Even in the 
faces of its people was to be seen a reflex of the 
city's mournful guise, for there was apparent in 
them that gloom which is begotten of a long and 
strenuous fast. Ramazan was at its height. Of 
course it was all my own fault, as every fresh 
acquaintance took good care to impress upon me, 
and I listened patiently to the reiterated assertion 
that December was not the time of year to see 
the beauties of Constantinople. The worst of bad 
weather, however, is powerless to divest the Hippo- 
drome, with its bronze pillar celebrating the victory 
of Platsea, of its historic interest, or the burnt 
column on whose continued existence depends accord- 
ing to popular superstition the life of the Ottoman 
Empire, or the museum which guards the relics of 
some of the earliest known races of mankind, or the 
great arches of massive masonry which sustain a 
water- channel enumerated by the versatile anatomist 



of Melancholy among the aqueducts of the world, ^ 
and till lately the sole water-supply of the capital. 
Nor could cold and damp check the flood of admiration 
which swept over me at sight of the noble propor- 
tions and unadorned magnificence of the Mosque of 
St Sophia, or stifle the half-involuntary thrill which 
assailed me as I saw here, in the great church of 
Justinian, a multitude now bow down as one man at 
the word of a priest of Islam. 

But it was not with a view to studying Con- 
stantinople, still less to writing about it, that I left 
England early in December 1902 and travelled with 
all the speed and comfort afforded by the " Orient 
Express " from one extremity of Europe to the other. 
The object which I had in view was destined to 
carry me farther afield than the tourist - trodden 
streets of Stambul, and after a short stay beneath 
the hospitable roof of the British embassy, I turned 
my back upon the West and passed through the great 
gateway of the East. 

Landing on the farther shore of the Bosphorus, your 
first reflection is probably that a few minutes have 
sufficed to transfer you from one continent to another, 
and your second that Asia here differs in no way from 
Europe there. The reason is simple. For centuries 
the tide of conquest flowed ever backward and for- 
ward between East and West, each wave leaving its 
mark ere it receded from the shore. The armies of 
the turbid races of the East — Persians, Arabs, Seljuks, 
Mongols, Tartars, and Turkomans — followers of men 
whose names are writ large in a momentous page of 
history, — Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes ; Harun-al-Ras- 
chid, Moslemah, and Motassem ; Toghrul Bey, Alp 
Arslan, and Suleiman ; Timur the Tartar and the 
1 In * The Anatomy of Melancholy,' by E. Burton. 



Turkoman Uzun Hassan, — rolled in successive waves 
from the East to be hurled tumultuously against the 
portals of the west ; while from time to time and 
with varying success the colonies or legions of Athens, 
Sparta, Macedon, Gaul, Rome, and Byzantium, the 
fervid bands of the crusaders, and the enterprising 
traders of Genoa and Venice, streamed across the 
dividing gulf, and raised the standards of the West 
among the empires of the East. Finally, fate and 
the conquering genius of the Osmanli Muhammed II. 
set up on the threshold of Europe the stronghold of 
an Asian power, which endures unto this day, and 
which, ignoring the arbitrary line of map-makers, 
confronts you with the East before you are well 
quit of the West. So there are bazaars, and mosques, 
and swarthy-visaged easterns on the western shore ; 
but there are also telegraphs and railways — and 
Germans — to remind you of Europe on the East. 

But despite all signs of prosy Western commerce, 
the atmosphere is perceptibly of the East. You look 
at your watch ; it is mid-day. You glance at the 
station clock — if there is one — and you observe that 
the hands point to 7.30. You ask for an explanation, 
and you learn that in Turkey sunset is twelve o'clock, 
that the sun set at 4.30 (European time) the day before, 
that it is now nineteen and a half hours after sunset, 
and that the hands of the clock therefore point to 7.30 ! 
You digest this as soon as you can, make a note of it 
for future occasion, and wonder vaguely if you will ever 
remember to make the necessary daily alteration to 
keep time with the sun. 

I looked at my watch after an early crossing of the 
Bosphorus on the morning of December 17, and found 
that it wanted a few minutes to six, so that if the in- 
formation I had received in Constantinople to the effect 



that the train was due to leave at 1.30 was correct, we I 
were due to start almost immediately. But it was not I 
— which fact reminded me that I was in the East. " 
Making my way through the deserted station, dimly 
lit by a flickering oil -lamp, I knocked up a sleepy 
oflicial, who indignantly informed me that the train 
would leave at 2.30 (7 A.M.). He was quite wrong; 
it did not leave until 3.30 (8 a.m.), though this was 
admittedly an hour after the advertised time. Punc- 
tuality is at a discount when the world of Islam keeps 
high fast. 

For the first four hours the train steams gaily along 
the coast to Ismid, after which it plunges desperately 
into a labyrinth of mountain glens and sullen defiles, 
to emerge panting later on, 3000 feet higher than when 
it started, on the edge of a highland plateau. The 
remaining distance to Konia lies across as uninteresting 
an expanse as you can well wish to see, which presents 
no greater feature in Anatolia than barren plateaux do 
in any other part of the world — Tibet for instance. 
Little need be said of the existing arrangements on 
the line except that consideration for the comfort of 
passengers played no part in determining them. The 
first day of about twelve hours is occupied in a struggle I 
to reach Eski Sher, where one is permitted to rest in 
such comfort as the accommodation afibrded by the 
hotel allows until 4 a.m., when the remaining journey 
of fifteen hours over a monotonous table-land is begun. 
By 7.30 P.M. Konia will be reached, and the weary 
traveller will find a welcome at the Greek inn, a few 
minutes' walk from the station, which he will probably 
sum up as even less inviting than the hotel at Eski 
Sher. Luncheon on the first day can be obtained at 
Ismid, and on the second at Afium Kara Hissar, five 
and three-quarter hours beyond Eski Sher. This ser- 



vice, however, in view of the probable consummation 
of the Baghdad railway scheme, may be looked upon as 
temporary : when the train de luxe, which is now in 
course of construction with a view to future eventual- 
ities, is in use, all this will be changed. 

Konia, the present terminus of the railway, is a 
scattered town of about 40,000 inhabitants, and capital 
of a vilayet, though for the moment government-house 
was untenanted, the vali, Ferhit Pasha, having left to 
take up his duties as president of the Macedonian 
Eeform Committee, while his successor Tewfic Pasha 
had not arrived. I found the tekke of the Mevlevi 
dervishes, which contains the tombs of Hazret Meviana, 
the founder of the order, and of his successors, and a 
semi-ruined building with a ceiling of beautiful enamel 
tile-work, a worthy rival of the renowned specimens of 
Samarkand, the objects of chief interest ; but on the 
whole I was not greatly edified by a morning's wander- 
ing in the town, and after persevering through a suc- 
cession of filthy lanes and alleys, was quite ready to 
agree with the genial companion of my walk, that in 
Konia it would be superfluous to name the streets, — 
there was, of course, no thought of doing so, — one knew 
them by their smells ! 

It is only fair while speaking of Konia to mention 
in passing how greatly the whole district has benefited 
under the enlightened rule of the late governor, though 
I observed that an excellent scheme of irrigation, pro- 
pounded by him some years ago, had, so far, proceeded 
no farther than the brain of its deserving originator, 
lack of funds no doubt forming a formidable bar to its 
practical application. 





Difficulties of travel in the winter — An Eastern road — The Axylon plateau 
— Oflf the road at night — Eregli — Through the- Taurus mountains — 
The defile at Bozanti — A pleasant Christmas ! — A silver mine — Death 
of a kaimakam — Bad weather — The Cilician Gates — An ancient high- 
way of nations — The trac^ of the future railway not through the Gates 
— Reach the Cilician plain and Mersina. 

Any one who undertakes under existing circumstances 
to travel from Konia to the Cihcian plain in the depth 
of winter must not expect to find the experience a 
pleasurable one. In the event of his being overtaken 
by continuous bad weather, as I was, he will find it a 
journey productive of a minimum of pleasure and a 
maximum of discomfort. The road — where there is any 
— is sufiiciently bad to preclude the possibility of pro- 
ceeding at anything better than a walk ; the only 
shelters in which to spend the night are miserable 
hovels, affording no conveniences beyond the walls, 
roof, and, as a rule, mud floor, infested by vermin and 
indescribably filthy ; and, finally, if unprovided with 
cooking-pots, washing-basin, and whatsoever else confers 
upon life a modicum of comfort, the traveller will have 
to content himself with whatever food his foresight may 
happen to have provided him with, cooked in the un- 
savoury and uninviting-looking utensil that will be 
offered him, and to look forward to a succession of days 



with an entire dispensation from ablutions. Fowls and 
eggs, it is true, may be obtained in the villages on the 
Konia plateau, but in winter, when the rigours of 
climate have driven away the encampments of nomads, 
which are to be found in the mountains during the 
summer months, nothing can be expected from the 
dilapidated khans which serve for stages on the main 
artery of communication between the desert uplands 
of Western Anatolia and the lowlands of Cilicia and 
Mesopotamia beyond. 

When I left Konia by carriage on the morning of 
December the 20th I had not the benefit of the experi- 
ence which I was so shortly to acquire, and I accepted 
thankfully and literally the information that there was 
a passable road the whole of the way. There is, how- 
ever, one road of the West and another of the East, and 
it very soon became evident that the road in question 
was essentially and unmistakably of the latter. That 
is to say, there was no road at all ; but we just drove 
over the plain in the direction of our objective, following 
more or less faithfully, according to circumstances, the 
tracks of others who had gone before. In this case, 
Eregli, a village at the foot of the Bulgar Dagh Mount- 
ains, was our objective, with the villages of Ismil and 
Kara Bunar as intermediate points. 

The south-eastern corner of the great highland 
plateau, known as the Axylon, presents a picture of 
mournful desolation. An arid and dessicated expanse 
for one- half of the year, it becomes in winter a sea of 
mud, producing to all appearances, where it produces 
anything at all, a crop of sorry -looking camel-thorn, 
such life as there is being presented by small strings of 
camels that pass with silent ghostly tread, and here and 
there by a small clump of miserable little houses, 
dignified by the title of village. 



On the second day of my journey across this uninvit- 
ing stretch, night came down to find us still ploughin 
through the snow, and I was not in the least surprise 
to hear about 6 p.m. that we were off the road ! T 
complicate matters, the horses of the conveyance, wit 
my Persian servant ^ and the luggage, now gave in, an 
could in no way be induced to move another step. A 
round darkness and a driving snowstorm, and th 
situation was sufficiently depressing. Fortunately on 
of my escort of zaptiehs, who had galloped off to recon 
noitre, returned ere long, having found the track, an 
taking Joseph in with me and leaving the cart with th 
beaten horses until such time as we might be able t 
send assistance, set off once more, reaching Kara Buna 
eventually without further mishap. 

As the road approaches Eregli all thought of follow 
ing even the footsteps of those who have gone befor 
has to be abandoned, since the plain develops into 
very tolerable snipe -bog. Through this my drive 
plunged with stolid oriental composure, turning neith 
to the right nor to the left, supremely indifferent to th 
vagaries of the conveyance as it was dragged along, 
now sunk above the axles in mud and water, now 
balanced at an angle which threatened every moment 
to end in total collapse, and it was vastly to my surprise 
and in complete defiance of all the laws of gravity that 
we did eventually reach our destination in an upright 
position. The village of EregU, on the fringe of the 

1 Joseph Abbas, a native of Tabriz, who has however for long resided in 
Eno-land. He first became associated with Englishmen on the Eiisso- 
Afghan Boundary Commission in 1885. Before that time he had per- 
formed the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, and has since talked with the 
followers of the murdered Englishman Dalgleish in the heart of Turkestan. 
The story of his travels would indeed fill many volumes, and I gladly take, 
this opportunity of acknowledging the faithful service which he accorded 
me during the whole of my journey, till I reached civilisation once more on 
the Siberian Kailway. 



Axylon plain, is a tolerably large one of 4000 or 5000 
inhabitants, occupying houses of sun-dried bricks, which 
are in many instances surrounded by well -watered 
gardens and orchards. 

The remark which appears at this point in the route- 
book of Asia Minor, to the effect that "some care" has 
been bestowed on the araba-road, will evoke a smile at 
the humour of the writer or a sigh of regret at the poor 
return there is to show for the care bestowed, according 
to the credulity of the reader ! It is, however, possible 
that my driver took me straight across country to 
Ulukishla, or that the sentence in the route-book was 
intended to apply to the road beyond that place, for it 
was not until we were a mile or more beyond it that we 
got into anything that could by any possible stretch of 
imagination be termed a made road/ 

From this point we entered the Bulgar Dagh, and 
for the remainder of the way to Tarsus passed through 
the magnificent mountain scenery afforded by the 
frowning peaks and precipitous defiles of the rugged 
Taurus range. The wild grandeur of some of the 
gorges through which the road passes is striking in 
the extreme, notably the narrow passage between per- 
pendicular walls of naked rock which gives access to 
the vale of Bozanti, and which I have no hesitation in 
admitting impressed me to a greater extent than did 
even the world-famed defile known to history as the 
pass of the Cilician Gates. At the southern end of 

^ It is, as Lord Curzon has remarked, due either to " the poverty or the 
tyranny of the English vocabulary " that one is obliged to use the word road 
in describing the communications of the East. Roads in reality, in our sense 
of the word, except where introduced by European enterprise, may be said 
to be non-existent in Asia. Cf. Lord Percy : " The road after passing the 
Kara Dagh is a marvel even for Turkey. According to Murray's hand- 
book it is just passable for carriages throughout, but if any vehicle ever 
accomplished the feat, it must have been at the cost of the lives of its 
occupants." — Notes from a Diary in Asiatic Turkey. 



this passage stands Ak Keupri, the "white bridge" 
over the Tchakid Su, and a miserable khan. Here I 
spent Christmas night, and can corroborate the state- 
ment lately made by Professor Ramsay that the new 
khan which has been built in the course of the last few 
years at the north end of the bridge " is, if possible, 
dirtier and more miserable than the old khans on this 
route." ^ The fire which I lit in the centre of the 
hovel soon melted the accumulated snow on the roof, 
which thenceforward dripped steadily through, while a 
biting wind whistled shrilly through the many chinks 
in the thin wood wall. 

A short distance before reaching the defile as one 
approaches from the west stands the guard-house of 
Chifte Khan, from which runs a road to Bulgar Maden, 
where a silver-mine is worked under the direction of a 
kaimakam, the output amounting to two pony-loads 
a- week, according to the information which I was given 
on the spot. The chausse leading to it was the delight 
of the kaimakam of Marash, to whose energy and pro- 
gressive ideas its construction was due. I say tvas, 
because — tragic example of the irony of fate — it was 
while inspecting the very work of which he was so 
justly proud that he met his death, being pitched 
over one of the precipices which he had spent his 
time in rendering passable a few weeks before I passed 

After crossing the Tchakid Su by the bridge at Ak 
Keupri, the road runs south-east, and later on south, 
passing first through a fine glen, and then ascending to 
a small open tableland known as the Tekir Plateau, 
at an altitude of about 4300 feet, 20 kilometres from 
Ak Keupri. And it is to the summit of this small 
plateau that the evolution of modern warfare has trans- 

1 Journal RG.S., October 1903. 



ferred the true line of defence from the narrow neck of 
the Cilician Gates, whose perpendicular walls of rock 
rise high on either side of the road a few miles to the 
south. The bad weather which had pursued me the 
whole way showed no improvement as I drove through 
the celebrated Gates, and I saw nothing consequently 
but a blurred picture of perpendicular walls of rock 
through flakes of falling snow. Professor Ramsay 
describes the passage as a narrow cleft piercing the 
front wall of the main mass of Taurus : The actual 
passage of the Gates is about 100 yards long. On 
both sides the rock walls rise almost perpendicularly 
(that on the west side literally so, at one point to about 
100 feet above the road), and then slope steeply back 
towards the towering summit of the ridge. A mediaeval 
castle crowns the western summit, evidently a relic 
of the long frontier warfare between Byzantine and 
Saracen power, 641-965 a.d." ^ In the same paper he 
points out the falsity of the legend that Ibrahim Pasha 
widened the passage, which before was too narrow to 
admit of two loaded camels passing one another, re- 
calling the fact that " a road practical for waggons 
traversed the Gates at least as early as 400 B.C.," 
while his own estimate of the width of the defile 
corresponds exactly with that of Kinneir, who when 
traversing it in 1812, before Ibrahim's day, described it 
as not more than ten or twelve paces in the narrowest 
part. It may further be pointed out that there remains 
a rock inscription on either side of the pass dating from 
a period many hundreds of years prior to the time of 

So much for this ancient highway of nations, which 
has resounded with the tramp of the armies of Cyrus, 
Alexander, Cicero, Harun-al-Raschid, and Ibrahim 

1 Journal K.G.S., October 1903. 



Pasha, and literally rung with the clash of arms during 
the prolonged era of Byzantine and Arab conflict. It 
must be with a sigh of regret that the sentimental 
learn that its day of greatness has all but run its course, 
since, contrary to popular supposition, its importance as 
a highway is not destined to be revived by the passage 
of an iron way, which will leave the present road at 
Ak Keupri and descend to the Cilician plain by the 
gorge of the Tchakid Su. But of this I shall have more 
to say later on in a chapter devoted to a discussion of 
the railway question. 

After leaving the defile the road passes down a glen, 
through superb mountain scenery, and finally debouches 
on to the plain from among the low foothills of Taurus, 
a mile or two from the nearest point on the Mersina- 
Tarsus-Adana Railway, which runs from the coast east- 
ward to the capital, over a distance of forty-one miles. 
From here another three miles brought me to Tarsus, 
whence I took train to Mersina, glad enough after the 
discomfort of my eight days' journey through the 
Taurus to avail myself of the kind hospitality ex- 
tended to me by the British Consul, Colonel Massy. 





Cilicia, ancient and modern — Mersina, a typical seaport of the Near East — 
Natural disadvantages as a port — The ancient harbour of Tarsus — The 
ruins at Soli Pompeiopolis — St Paul's Institute at Tarsus — Course of 
the Cydnus diverted by Justinian — The Dinck Tash — Fallacy of the 
legend that it is the tomb of Sardanapalus — Relics at Tarsus — The site 
of the ancient capital — Adana, capital of Cilicia — Description of — 
Population of — The American mission — Turkish rule — Want of public 
works — Instances of official corruption — The cotton industry — Climate 
— Leave Adana — Ruined castles — A gorgeous sunset — Nature of 
Eastern Cilicia — Across the Giaour Dagh— Excavations at Zingerli — 
Reach Aleppo. 

The Cilician Plain consists of two distinct halves : the 
western plain, a flat, low-lying expanse of rich stone- 
less loam, bounded on the south by the sea, on the west 
and north by the Taurus Mountains, and on the east 
by the Jebel Nur, which divides it from the eastern 
plain. The latter, known also as the Chukur Ova, is 
likewise bounded on the north by Taurus, while on the 
east it is shut in by the range of the Giaour Dagh, 
known to the ancients as Amanus. The whole of the 
eastern plain is broken by low hills, the Jebel Nur and 
the foothills which run up to Taurus and the Giaour 
Dagh, and is in parts marshy. Both parts can boast of 
ancient cities and ruins which speak of an early civil- 
isation, such as Tarsus in the western and Anazarba in 
the eastern plain ; but the Anazarba of to-day retains 



none of the importance with which it was once invested 
as the capital of Cilicia Secunda in the days of Augustus 
and Tiberius ; nor can there be much resemblance be- 
tween the ancient Tarsus of a million inhabitants and 
the moderate town which bears that name to-day. 
Nevertheless, though the glory has departed never to 
return, Cilicia may yet rise again from the depths of 
obscurity to which it has fallen, and claim for itself in 
the future some small share of attention from the 
merchant and politician. 

At the present time, judged by the modern standards 
of trade and commerce, Mersina may be considered the 
town of chief importance, since it is the seaport through 
which pass the imports to and exports from the district, 
while Tarsus and Adana, the capital of the province 
and centre of administration, rank next, being con- 
nected with the coast by rail. In the event of the 
trans - continental rail being constructed as at pres- 
ent designed, the importance of Adana will increase, 
while Tarsus, deprived of the command of the one 
great artery of communication with the interior, must 
dwindle in proportion, and Mersina, should a more 
suitable harbour be found at the terminus of a branch 
from the main line to the coast, sink into comparative 
insignificance. For the time being, however, whatever 
may be its future fate, Mersina flourishes, and it was 
to Mersina that I hurried as soon as the somewhat 
scanty service of the M.T.A. railway admitted of my 
doing so. 

Arrived here, I found a typical seaport town of the 
Near East. A central thoroughfare, enclosed on either 
side by the familiar shops of an oriental bazaar, which 
have the appearance of little square boxes with one 
side knocked out ; the vendors squatting idly among 
their wares, which are displayed on a counter filling 



the open side of the box and as often as not straying 
down into the street in front, consisting largely of fruit 
and vegetables, bread and a variety of native delicacies ; 
here and there on the shady side of the street a little 
knot of men, seated on what ought to be the pavement, 
engaged in a game of dice or cards amid a group of 
interested onlookers, — the whole centre of the thorough- 
fare filled during the day with a polyglot collection of 
leisurely humanity, strolling ever backwards and for- 
wards, with the infinitely superior air of those in whose 
calculations of life time has found no place, among 
whom camels, ponies, and donkeys, laden with the 
various products of the country, pick their way with 
stoical indifference. Passing through this central bazaar, 
an open space, which with a stretch of imagination may 
be dubbed a square, will be found, in the centre of 
which a caravan of camels may perhaps be seen ; while 
beyond this again on the outskirts of the town little 
enclosures fill the view, surrounded by straggling hedges 
of prickly-pear, amid which, half-hidden by orchards of 
fruit-trees, stand the better-built houses of the Euro- 
pean residents. Such is a description of many a coast 
town of the Nearer East. Such is Mersina. 

I have said that its importance is due to its being 
the seaport town through which passes the bulk of the 
commerce of Cihcia. This is true ; but for the reason 
that there is no other, for its natural disadvantages in 
this respect are great. Nature, so prodigal of inlets 
and harbours on the western extremity of Asia Minor, 
has been severely frugal on the south, and the best 
accommodation that Mersina can offer is that of an 
open roadstead, in which ships have perforce to lie at 
distances of from a mile to two miles from the coast. 
It cannot compare with the advantages formerly offered 
by the land-locked harbour of Tarsus, which went so 



far to confer upon that city its former greatness ; but 
the Rhegma, — once a lagoon, later an inland lake, — 
which by the aid of human art was made into an 
excellent and commodious harbour, is now a marsh, 
and the Cydnus, which then flowed through it to the 
sea, now passes by on the east, receiving from it but 
the overflow of a swamp, which renders useless a large 
extent of what might under happier circumstances be 
excellent land. For this reason I have said that the 
prosperity of Mersina is likely to wane if, as is likely, 
a branch line is built from the Baghdad railway to 
some point on the bay of Ayas. It is true that the 
Pyramus is filling up the latter ; but the day when a 
port there would be rendered useless owing to land 
encroachment is too far distant to warrant considera- 
tion, whereas the silt brought down by the Cydnus 
and Saros and deposited in the vicinity of Mersina is 
distributed along the coast-line by a strong current 
which sets west, so that, though land-encroachment is 
greatly retarded, the sea is kept constantly shallow for 
a considerable distance. 

Farther west along the coast may be seen the remains 
of an artificial harbour at Soli Pompeiopolis, but the 
facilities oflered by nature are no greater here than 
they are at Mersina. Little seems to be known of the 
ancient town that stood there. I drove out one morn- 
ing over a partially possible road, which, however, had 
been made use of in one part by a cultivator of the soil, 
who was in the act of ploughing it when I drove by. 
Being in Turkey, I could hardly credit it that this over- 
sight on the part of the son of toil was due to super- 
abundant zeal, and concluded, therefore, that it was 
owing to an inability to decide where his field ended 
and the road began. In addition to the remnants of 
a harbour, already alluded to, there remain parts of an 



aqueduct from the mountains to the north, and not far 
from the shore a long Hne of stone pillars, surmounted 
by well-preserved carved capitals. 

The 16|- miles to Tarsus can be covered in fifty 
minutes by the railway, and I found a hearty welcome 
awaiting me on arrival from the Rev. Dr Christie, who 
presides over a college for young men known as St 
Paul's Institute, which boasts of nearly 200 students, 
129 of whom at the time of my visit were boarders. 
Here I saw Greeks and Armenians being instructed in 
French and trigonometry, and competing later in the 
sports which one inevitably associates with an English 
public school. The present town, which has a large 
and well-supplied bazaar, has a population of about 
25,000. To the archaeologist and the historian it pre- 
sents many problems of the greatest interest — problems 
still, thanks to the objection raised by Turkish auto- 
cracy to the revelation which excavation invariably 
makes of the perished splendour of a former age, 
which casts so searching a glare on the decay and 
squalor of the present. On the eastern side of the 
town the river Cydnus forms a fine cascade. At one 
time it undoubtedly flowed through the city, but its 
course was diverted by Justinian (a.d. 527-563) to 
prevent a recurrence of a flood which had on a former 
occasion washed away part of the town. 

Situated on the outskirts of the town, among the 
many gardens of fruit-trees which surround it, stands a 
massive rectangular construction of hard concrete, or 
rather a series of blocks separated by open spaces, 
known as the Dinek Tash or overturned stone, which 
has for some reason or other succeeded in arrogating to 
itself a certain measure of distinction as the tomb of 
Sardanapalus. The futility of any such pretension is 
sufliciently obvious in light of the fact that, given to 



begin with that there was such a person as Sardanapalus 
and that he was buried in CiHcia, it is to Anchiale that 
the evidence of the Greek writers would point as the 
probable resting-place of his remains. Thus Strabo : 
" Anchiale, a little way above the sea, founded by 
Sardanapalus, says Aristobulus, who also says there is 
there a tomb ^ of Sardanapalus, and a stone figure joining 
the fingers of his right hand as if snapping them, and 
an inscription in Assyrian writing to the following 
effect : ' Sardanapalus, son of Anacyndaraxis, built 
Anchiale and Tarsus in one day. Eat, drink, play, 
nothing else is worth even that — i.e., a snap of the 
finger.' " Another inconvenient objection to such a 
pretension is to be found in the fact that the hard 
concrete, of which the building is composed, is un- 
doubtedly Roman, while the practical will find a still 
more cogent reason for disbelief in the almost certain 
knowledge that no such person as Sardanapalus ever 
existed. His name, it is true, has been identified with 
that of Ashurbanipal, one of the greatest of the later 
Assyrian kings ; but the luxurious and effeminate 
character given him by the Greeks in no way cor- 
responds to what is known of that monarch, and it is 
fairly safe to assume that Sardanapalus, as such, may 
be put aside as the creation of a too lively imagination. 
The most probable conjecture with regard to the Dinek 
Tash is, that it is the core of a Grseco-Roman temple 
from which the marble and stone facings have been 

That it is only necessary to dig anywhere in the 
present town to find remains of the Tarsus of old of a 
million inhabitants is a well-known fact, and at every 
corner large square-cut stones and portions of old stone 

^ The word used is f^vn^iay which might equally and perhaps more probably 
mean monument. 



pillars, built roughly into the foundations of modern 
houses, catch the eye. A point of extreme interest is a 
mound at the edge of the present town, thought to 
mark the site of the ancient capital, and standing on 
the summit one would indeed have to be built in a 
callous mould to be unconscious of the strange spell 
of the romance of history as it is borne in upon one 
that here, on this very spot, it in all probability was 
that Mark Antony " enthroned i' the market-place did 
sit alone whistling to the air," while " the city cast her 
people out upon her," to gaze on the syren queen of 
Egypt, Cleopatra, whose barge " like a burnished throne 
burn'd on the water," as, decked in a wonderful disguise 
representing Aphrodite, she sailed up the Cydnus river. 

There remains now for me to make a passing refer- 
ence to Adana, and the chief towns of the Cilicia of 
to-day may be said to have been enumerated. The 
morning train from Mersina starts at this time of year 
at about 8 a.m., and steaming leisurely eastward across 
the absolute level of the western plain, manages to 
spend precisely two and a half hours in covering the 
forty-one miles to the terminus, a performance which no 
doubt appeals to the inherent sense of dignity which 
prevades, and is an inalienable attribute of the East. 
The town is built partly on an isolated hill and partly 
on the plain, on the right bank of the Saros river, 
spanned here by an excellent bridge ; and, in addition 
to a good bazaar displaying a vast assortment of the 
piece-goods of the West, can boast of well-built govern- 
ment buildings, churches, and mosques. I gazed in 
through the gateway of the most interesting of the 
last, said to be built on the site of an ancient church, 
but could see but little of the architectural beauty of 
the interior, Europeans being prohibited from entering 
without special permission. Mr Chambers, the hospit- 



able chief of the Adana branch of the American mission, 
who was kind enough to invite me to be his guest 
during my stay in the town, put the population at 
about 50,000, — an estimate, however, which he ad- 
mitted was formed without any accurate data.^ 

Such in brief are the three chief towns of modern 
Cilicia, a country of enormous agricultural potentiality, 
which, under good management, could undoubtedly 
become, to some extent at any rate, a granary of 
Europe.'^ But it is to be feared that the same methods 
which have made Turkish government a byword for 
maladministration and corruption are as prevalent 
here as they are in any other portion of the Ottoman 
empire. The result is that the peasants, squeezed 
beyond endurance to produce a sum of sufficient magni- 
tude to satisfy the central government, after it has 
been materially reduced at the hands of the different 
official harpies who have the handling of it on its 

1 The trade of the vilayet of Adana for the year 1903 amounted to 
£2,431,844, divided as follows : Imports, £629,450 ; exports, £1,802,394. 
Of the imports, goods to the value of £209,907 came from the United King- 
dom, India, Egypt, and Cyprus. Of the exports, goods to the value of 
£269,365 were destined for the United Kingdom and British dependencies. 
The chief articles of import are : Alcohol, cotton cloth, and manufactured 
goods, cloth and woollen goods, cotton yarn, hides, iron-ware, indigo, jute 
sacks and canvas, machinery, silk stuffs, and sugar. Of export : Barley, 
cotton, flour, gum tragacanth, linseed, oats, sesame seed, timber, wheat, 
wool, and yellow berries. 

It is also satisfactory to observe that whereas the number of steamers 
flying the British flag at Mersina in 1901 was 88, the number in 1903 
amounted to 111 out of a total of 368. 

2 That the country was at one time an exceedingly rich one is certain. 
See Schlumberger's ' L'epopee byzantine a la fin du x® si^cle ' : " Ce pays de 
Cilicie, le pachalik actuel dAdana, pays aujourd'hui desole, . . . ^tait a 
I'epoque oil y penetra I'armee de Nicephore, d'une richesse infinie, d'une 
fertilite incomparable. Les Sarrasins solidement etablis dans toutes les 
anciennes cites Byzantines, y avaient apporte leurs admirables procedes 
d'agriculture, leur syst^me perfectionne d'irrigation. Toute cette campagne 
^tait un vaste jardin, et chaque ete les belles moissons Ciliciennes tombaient 
abondantes sous la faucille des moissonneurs musulmans." 



devious way to the capital, give up labouring to pro- 
duce more than is sufficient to afford them a bare 
livelihood, since there is little or no chance of their 
securing any of the profits accruing from a surplus. 
Nothing is done by the Government in the shape of 
public works of utility, such as schemes for drainage 
and irrigation ; nor is any encouragement given to 
those who volunteer to inaugurate the very works 
which those whose duty it should be to undertake them 
so sadly neglect. 

It is now some years since a group of Europeans 
interested in the Mersina - Adana railway sought a 
concession for a scheme of drainage and irrigation. 
A petition was drawn up in which it was stated that 
a certain sum of money was to be paid for every acre 
of land that could be irrigated were the concession 
granted, and the vali was approached and asked to 
co-operate with the promoters in granting facilities for 
the acquisition of the signatures of the agriculturists 
of the district. " Oh yes," replied the calculating 
governor of the province, "but how much am I to 
receive for my assistance ? " The promoters are still 
biding in patience, and the land is still unirrigated and 
undrained.^ The vali in asking how large his bribe 
was to be was doing nothing unusual whatever ; 
indeed he would hardly have been a Turkish gov- 
ernor if he had not done so. A short time before my 
arrival at Adana the public prosecutor, whose duty 
necessitated his prosecuting a criminal for murder, 
oddly enough found himself at that very time the 
recipient of a handsome gift amounting to £200. The 

^ At the time of my visit a group of capitalists, possessed of great influ- 
ence at Constantinople, were considering the advisability of pressing for 
a concession. It is possible, therefore, that an improvement may ere long 
be brought about in the condition of the agriculturists of Cilicia. 



prisoner was found not guilty. Curious coincidencS 
muses the ingenuous stranger ; elementary example cl 
cause and effect scoffs the resident, well versed in thB 
tortuous byways of Ottoman jurisprudence ! ^ 

Under these circumstances it is surprising to find 
as much commercial and agricultural development as 
there is. In spite of every disadvantage a certain 
amount of wheat is grown, and the cotton industry is 
in a flourishing condition. There are cotton-mills at 
Adana, Tarsus, and Hamidiyeh. In the hands of 
Messrs Trypanni the factory at Adana does a large 
and flourishing business. Founded by the father of 
the present proprietors, who made a fortune by the 
export of cotton to America during the war of 18 GD- 
IS 64, the mills now have an average annual output of 
1,800,000 lb. of cotton thread, and employ from 600 to 
800 hands. The thread finds its way to various parts 
of the country, where it is made up into cloth, and in 
a good year the seed extracted from the raw cotton is 
exported to England to make cotton-seed oil. 

The climate of the plain is unpleasant in the summer, 
when the pests of the insect world issue forth in their 
thousands from the low-lying marshes in the vicinity 
of Tarsus, and the European population of Mersina 
moves in a body to the hills near by. That the heat 
is appreciable may be gathered from the fact that an 
enterprising company which was a short time ago 
formed in Tarsus for making ice, paid no less than 
40 per cent the first year, though charging only the 
modest sum of |^d. per oka (2f lb.). 

Having interviewed the vali, Bahri Pasha, a Kurd- 
ish prince who exercises a strong if masterful authority 
over his district, and having obtained a huyuruldu or 
open letter, and the necessary zaptieh, I continued my 
journey on the morning of January 5. The road runs 







across the rich level plain to Missis, a village on the 
Jihun river situated at the foot of the Jebel Nur, 
which I have already described as dividing the two 
halves of the Cilician plain. A little farther on, on 
the far side of the river, which is crossed by a good 
stone bridge, the remains of a building of solid masonry 
comes into view, one of many such ruins which are to 
be seen in the eastern half of the Cilician plain, one 
and all bearing eloquent testimony to the severity of 
the border warfare of which the country was formerly 
the scene. 

Towards evening on the second day we passed the 
ruins of a famous stone castle, Toprak Kaleh, on the 
summit of a low hill ; and a few minutes later, a short 
time before reaching Osmaniyeh, a small village where 
we intended halting for the night, were treated to one 
of those magnificent sunsets which are perhaps char- 
acteristic rather of the stormy skies of the wild west 
than of the placid serenity which one associates with 
the eastern heavens. As we marched steadily east 
the snow - clad peaks in front of us were suddenly 
suffused with a glow of pink, while to the west a 
crimson band shot across the horizon, resting for a 
moment on the low hills behind us, to cast a lurid light 
across a heavy bank of scowling storm-clouds imme- 
diately above ere it gradually faded from view, leaving 
the landscape as it went to the neutral tint of night. 

The whole of the eastern division of Cilicia presents 
a more broken surface than does the western, and 
! warrants its description by Schlumberger as " un pays 
j fort accidente." In places I observed the land being 
I ploughed with primitive implements of wood drawn 
! by oxen ; in others large flocks of sheep and herds of 
goats were to be seen, and sometimes big droves of 
cattle. A good deal of scrub is observable in parts, 



while in others tall reeds and patches of pampas grass 
give evidence of marshy ground. 

Osmaniyeh is the last village we passed in Cilicia, 
and a short distance beyond the road turns into the 
Giaour Dagh Mountains. Crossing by the col above 
Hassan Beyli, we descended to the remarkable valley 
of the Kara Su, which stretches from Marash in the 
north to Antioch in the south, passing on our way 
down it the German excavations at Zingerli, which 
have laid bare a number of Hittite, Assyrian, and old 
Semitic monuments. Crossing the valley to the south 
of Islayeh, we made our way over the southern ex- 
tremity of the Kurt Dagh to Killis, and thence 
through vast groves of olives, and later across smil- 
ing acres of corn land to Aleppo, which we reached 
on the eighth day after our start from Adana. 





Aleppo — Its bazaars — Population — Importance as a distributing centre — 
More tales of Turkish administration — Routes between Aleppo and 
Mossul — The northern route — The southern route — The proposed 
railway route — Internal disorder — Reason for travelling by southern 
route — Start from Aleppo — Nature of country — A long march and a 
scanty dinner — Meskineh — The lands of the Euphrates — Historical 
interest of the river banks — Deir — A visit from a Turkish colonel — I 
secure an escort — Road-making — The disadvantages of an absence of 

Aleppo, more generally known in the country as Haleb, 
is a large town, possessed in one quarter of many well- 
built — for Turkey almost imposing — houses. The chief 
feature, however, which attracts attention is the castle 
or citadel, consisting of a steep artificial mound crowned 
by a wall, which encloses the various buildings on the 
summit, the whole considered by the inhabitants to be 
impregnable. Both the walls and buildings, however, 
are in bad preservation, and the best preserved and far 
most massive portions now extant are the solidly built 
fortification, which gives entrance to certain subter- 
ranean chambers, by means of which access is obtained 
to the summit, and the stone bridge across the moat 
which surrounds the whole mound. The bazaars are 
worthy of note, consisting of a labyrinth of covered-in 
arcades which run from one into another, and cover a 



very large extent of ground. The description of them 
given by Dr Russell upwards of a century ago, in his 
' Natural History of Aleppo,' holds good to-day : " The 
bazaars or markets are lofty stone edifices in the form 
of a long gallery, for the most part very narrow, arched 
above, or else roofed with wood. The shops, which are 
either placed in recesses of the wall or formed of 
wooden sheds projecting from it, are ranged upon each 
side upon a stone platform two or three feet high, which 
runs the whole length of the gallery. In many of the 
old bazaars these shops are so confined as barely to 
leave room for the shopkeeper to display his wares and 
for himself and one guest to sit conveniently. The 
buyers are obliged to remain standing on the outside ; 
and when opposite shops happen to be in full employ- 
ment it is not easy for a passenger to make his way 
through the crowd." 

The town has a population of 135,000, including a 
Russian Consul-General, a Russian Yice-Consul, and 
one Russian subject ! and its chief importance lies in 
its being a large trade depot and distributing centre for 
the surrounding vilayets. It is probable, therefore, 
that the advent of the railway will tend to lessen rather 
than to increase its importance. From the south it 
will eventually be connected with Damascus when the 
French line via Homs and Hamah, which has reached 
the latter place, is completed. On the north a branch 
line will leave the German main line at Tel Habesch, 
a little east of Killis, and cover the 60 kilometres 
between that place and Aleppo. It has also some 
importance as a military centre, and in addition to 
the many well-built stone houses belonging to private 
individuals in the Azizieh quarter — built of the 
excellent stone which is found close by — there are 
large barracks where a regiment of cavalry, a bat- 



tery of artillery, and two regiments of infantry are 

Tales of Turkish order and justice are, of course, as 
plentiful here as they are in any other part of Turkey. 
A company of soldiers had in one town not so very far 
off stormed and captured the telegraph - office, and 
having put themselves into communication with the 
capital, declared their intention of monopolising the 
wires until some portion at least of their arrears of pay 
had been made good. In another direction I heard 
at first hand of a case of a man who had been dead 
for upwards of ten years having to pay the military 
exemption tax ! But perhaps the most comic example 
of Turkish administration which came under my notice 
was a little contretemps in connection with the mail- 
bags. Some apprehension was being felt lest the plague, 
which was prevalent at Damascus, should spread to 
Aleppo. Strict quarantine regulations were conse- 
quently enforced against that city, among others a 
decree going forth that all mail-bags were to be fumi- 
gated. Fumigation was carried on with great zest, 
and it was probably with far greater disgust than 
surprise that the European community, while patiently 
awaiting the delivery of their letters, learnt that the 
fumigation had gone further than was intended, and 
that the whole of their mail had been consumed ! 

From Aleppo to Mossul the traveller has a choice of 
routes. Perhaps the best known and least exposed to 
Arab raids is the road by Diarbekr and Mardin, which 
is said to be much patronised by caravans for the latter 
reason. This is the northern route. Another route, 
making a detour to the south, but shorter than that by 
Diarbekr, runs straight to the Euphrates at Meskineh, 
whence it follows the right bank of the river to Deir-el- 
Zor. Crossing the river here by ferry, the track 



continues up the right bank of the Khabur river, which 
is crossed at Shehdadi, and then traverses the desert 
steppe of Central Mesopotamia to the Sinjar Mountains 
and Mossul. It is, however, by neither of these routes 
that it is proposed to construct the Baghdad railway. 
Running almost due east from Killis, it will pass 
through Harran and Ras-el-Ain, and leaving Mardin 
to the north reach Mossul by Nissibin. It had been my 
intention to travel by this latter route, but circum- 
stances decided otherwise. For rumour had been busy 
of late, which by the beginning of the New Year left 
little room for doubt, that the whole of the country in 
the vicinity of Ras-el-Ain, as far south as the Jebel 
Abdul Azziz, was in a state of seething irritation. It 
was said that Ras-el-Ain itself had become the centre 
of a vast encampment of upwards of 15,000 tents, 
and that there the arch-brigand Ibrahim Pasha, with 
a swarm of Hamidiyeli myrmidons and an allied force 
of Anazeh Arabs, was waiting in readiness for the ex- 
pected onslaught of a horde of Shammar Arabs, they 
in their turn accompanied by their Kurd allies. 

During the previous year the Shammar tribe had 
suffered heavily at the hands of the notorious Ibrahim, 
and, acting on the principle of an eye for an eye and 
a tooth for a tooth, were now rallying their forces, bent 
on retaliation in the form of battle, murder, and sudden 
death. Had the prospect been merely that of an inter- 
tribal fight among the Arabs, it is possible that a 
traveller might have passed through with impunity ; 
but from all accounts it mattered little to the Hamidi- 
yeh Kurds, who under pretence of serving the empire 
bear their royal title, and receive arms and ammunition 
from the Government, who fell into their net, all alike 
being considered equal and legitimate prey. 

I was not altogether surprised, therefore, when on 



approaching Ali Pasha, the general at the head of the 
" extraordinary command " in Aleppo, and asking for an 
escort and permission to proceed, I was met with a 
polite but firm refusal. Permission, then, to travel by 
this route not being forthcoming, there remained the 
northern route by Diarbekr and the southern one by 
Deir and the Sinjar Mountains. Under certain con- 
ditions in the dim future, a branch line is to be con- 
structed from some point on the Baghdad line to 
Diarbekr, and it was even rumoured in Constantinople 
that the main line itself might after all pass that way ; 
but despite these facts I decided to travel by the 
southern route, since the more northern was already 
well known to me from the descriptions given of it 
by others, and the country traversed by the southern is 
all part of the same plain, and presents the same par- 
ticulars as the tract between the Euphrates and the 
Tigris vid Harran and Ras-el-Ain, through which the 
railway is to be constructed. 

Accordingly, after a short rest in Aleppo, I set out 
on the morning of the 15th January in a direction 
slightly south of east. From Aleppo to the Euphrates 
at Meskineh the track lies over vast stretches of un- 
dulating ground, practically treeless (except in the 
immediate vicinity of the town itself, where groves of 
olives and pistachio-trees are seen), though large tracts 
of it are under cultivation. Once through the groves 
which surround the town, there is nothing to relieve 
the monotony of the dreary reaches of an almost 
featureless expanse beyond occasional small villages, 
resembling bunched-up conglomerations of giant clay 
beehives, and a number of artificial mounds which are 
scattered over the country, or the saline waters of the 
salt Lake Jebul, which may be seen to the south shim- 
mering in the sun. 



At Deir Hafr, an Arab village, it is usual to spend 
the first night out of Aleppo. The march is a long 
one, so that with irritating perversity my muleteer 
seized the opportunity of making an unusually late 
start, with the result that night was upon us long 
before we had reached our destination. There being 
no moon till late, we were obliged to grope our way at 
snail's pace over the plain, with nothing whatsoever to 
guide us but a camel-track, which under the circum- 
stances was hardly distinguishable. The ponies with 
the baggage did not arrive till 11 p.m., after I had 
dined off barley bread and a delectable compound of 
sugar and grapes, the only food the Arabs could 

As one approaches the Euphrates one passes over a 
good deal of uncultivated plain covered with short 
grass, on which small flocks of sheep are to be seen 
grazing, and on reaching the river, comes upon the 
three mud buildings which constitute Meskineh. Had 
the scheme of navigating the Euphrates from Baghdad 
to the latitude of Aleppo proved practicable, Meskineh, 
which now affords the shelter of a moderate hhan, 
might have become an important place as the head- 
quarters of the steam navigation. At the present day, 
however, the river is only navigated by small native 
craft, and the prospects of Meskineh rising superior to 
its present unpretentious level are remote.^ 

From here on, the road lies sometimes in the river- 
plain, sometimes over the great rolling stretches of 

1 In ' The Nearer East ' Mr Hogarth says, " The river is not considered 
navigable above Rakka, while it is not in point of fact ascended above 
Hit." I could not learn that any steam-vessel had ascended the river even 
as far as Hit for at least a decade, while if the above is intended to refer 
to other vessels, it is equally incorrect, since shallow native craft carry 
goods from Birejik to Deir, where they are transhipped into larger boats, 
and conveyed down the river. 



undulating steppe land which, for want of a better 
term, is usually designated desert. In point of fact, 
the country through which the Euphrates rolls its broad 
placid waters at this period of its journey to the sea 
is a vast broken waste, showing here and there rocky 
and stony excrescences, covered for the greater part 
with short grass and aromatic scrub, capable of afford- 
ing subsistence, during some part of the year at least, 
for flocks of sheep and herds of goats, but too stony, 
and possessed of too precarious a water-supply, to be 
considered arable. Yet, — I am speaking of winter, 
when I passed through, — despite the covering of 
herbage which gives the ground immediately around 
one a colouring of green, the general view presented 
by the landscape is a dreary brown, such colouring as 
I have described becoming merged at a short distance 
in an all- pervading neutral tint, produced by a com- 
bination of the earth itself and the faded grey of the 
ubiquitous desert scrub, wan and sad looking in the 
lifeless garb of winter. Along the river-banks them- 
selves thick jungle of liquorice, Euphrates poplar, tall, 
lank thorn-bush, and kindred growth is always to be 
found, while some little colour is here and there infused 
into the scene by pale-green patches of tamarisk, and 
odd little pieces of riparian cultivation. Humanity is 
represented by the squat black tents of the Anazeh 
Arabs, with their flocks of sheep and herds of goats and 
camels. Such existed in no great quantity at this 
season, though I was informed that in the summer 
months the whole river-plain between Meskineh and 
Abu Hurareh, a ruined fort a day's journey farther 
east, is alive with Arabs, who collect to pay their 
annual dues to the Government. 

Between Meskineh and Deir, a six days' journey, 
no places of importance are passed, small mud police- 



stations at intervals of from twenty to thirty miles 
being the only form of permanent habitation, if I 
except the few small houses which have grown up 
round the largest of them — Sabkah. The places of 
greatest historical interest are Phunsah and Rakka, 
the latter on the left bank close to the junction of the 
Belik and the Euphrates. At the former place the 
river was forded by the army of Cyrus the younger, 
by Darius, both before and after Issus, and by 
Alexander in pursuit, while Thapsacus, which stood 
on or near the present site, has been identified with 
Tiphsah, the eastern boundary of King Solomon's 
dominion. The latter, the site of Nicephorium, is 
still a fair-sized place, and extensive ruins are visible 
around it. 

On January 22 I reached Deir, which is described as 
" a considerable place in the desert." I found it a 
small town with two fair khans, some fairly good 
houses, and a long central street and bazaar. An 
officer of rank and 500 men are quartered here, in 
addition to the usual police, and on arrival I left a 
letter of introduction on him, given me by Ali Pasha 
at Aleppo. Pesult : in the midst of general untidiness 
consequent on the rearrangement of baggage in the 
bare room of the khan, enter a smart uniformed 
individual, evidently of high rank, to the discomfiture 
of the Englishman in shirt-sleeves, knickerbockers, and 
shooting-boots ! The Colonel, however, — for it was no 
other, — was affability itself, assured me that there was 
no occasion for formality, and intimated that he had 
merely come to inform me that, as I intended crossing 
the desert to Mossul, an escort would be necessary, and 
that, in compliance with the wish of his superior at 
Aleppo, he would supply me with the men the follow- 
ing morning. " How many men did he consider 



necessary V He could not allow me to proceed 
with less than six, and would arrange for a larger 
number if I desired it." I groaned inwardly, desired 
my interpreter to offer him my profuse thanks for his 
kindness, and to beg him not to trouble himself by 
making arrangements for sending more than the neces- 
sary minimum. "He was at my service, and it should 
be as I wished," and for the next half-hour we passed 
those little absurdities — the Colonel seated on my only 
chair, myself on the bed — which under such circum- 
stances have perforce to do duty for conversation. 

In the vicinity of the town I found considerable care 
being bestowed upon the construction of a metalled 
road, which extended for three or four miles in the 
direction of Aleppo. This I learnt was the work of a 
syndicate of merchants, whose too sanguine subscribers 
entertained the hope that it might some day be laid 
with rails. Should it be successful in escaping the 
usual fate of premature collapse, which overtakes most 
schemes of regeneration in Turkey, it will no doubt be 
of some service to wheeled traffic, especially if an 
experience which I witnessed not far from Deir is of 
common occurrence. Rounding a small spur of cliffs 
which bound the river-plain, I was startled by vocifer- 
ous shouting and a resounding crash, and the next 
moment came in sight of an araba lying upside down 
in front of me. It required the united efforts of the 
spilt party, and of all the kings horses, and all the 
king's men, in the shape of my escort, who arrived 
upon the scene most opportunely, to set it up again. 





Crossing the Euphrates — The monotonous desolation of the country — A 
surprise— A band of Arab marauders — A peaceful conclusion — Arab 
propensities — The river Gozan of the Old Testament — Crossing the 
Khabur river — The Mesopotamian steppe — A well in the desert — 
Reach the Jebel Sinjar — The Yezidis — A punitive expedition — An 
uncomfortable night — The country between Jebel Sinjar and the 
Tigris — The aspect of Mesopotamia in spring and in summer — De- 
scription by Sir Henry Layard. 

From Deir the direct road to Baghdad continues down 
the right bank of the Euphrates by Hit, but to go to 
Mossul the river must now be crossed and a north- 
easterly direction taken across the desert plains of 
Mesopotamia. After crossing on the morning of the 
24th, a lengthy proceeding effected by means of a 
cumbrous ferry propelled by a vociferous gang of pre- 
historic looking Arabs armed with a motley collection 
of oars and punt-poles, we travelled over a country 
devoid even of the attraction hitherto afforded by the 
narrow ribbon of the jungle - covered banks of the 
Euphrates. It is a country in which one may ride on 
and on for hours at a time without so much as seeing 
a human being or any sign of human habitation, such 
life as there is, in the shape of Arab encampments, 
clinging closely to the banks of the Khabur river, which 
flows sluggishly south to mingle its waters with those 



of the Euphrates a little south of Deir. It is in fact 
often only by a thin black line of Arab tents stretching 
across the plain that it is possible to follow the course 
of the stream, which otherwise becomes indistinguish- 
able at a very short distance. Where these wanderers 
pitch their tents little plots of land will be ploughed and 
clumsily irrigated, but away from the river-banks nothing 
will meet the eye but waste — dreary, desolate waste. 

Often it is across an absolute level that one canters, 
hoping against hope that some time that elusive horizon 
in front will be reached ; again it is across great billowy 
undulations that go rolling away into infinite space, 
tempting one always to think that at any rate from the 
crest of the next something definite will await one's 
gaze. But the summit of the next is reached, and of 
the one after that, and there is always just such 
another beyond, unrelieved by anything but the meagre 
grass and rusty scrub which, while redeeming it from 
the utter destitution of the true desert, serves but to 
accentuate the hideous forlornness of the whole sur- 
rounding. And so one relapses into indifference and 
jogs wearily along, one's thoughts wandering absently 
to other lands, since there is nothing in the present to 
keep them, thankful when night, or some small isolated 
police-station, or the squat black tents of some Arab 
encampment, apprise one that the end of the day's 
march is at hand. 

" Ah ! " The short sharp exclamation broke the deep 
silence which Nature always preserves in those vast 
solitudes of hers where space is infinite and time and 
distance have no place. My wandering thoughts came 
tumbling back, from a wild flight to distant lands, to the 
reality of the present. Mohammed had pulled up, and 
was standing like a statue gazing into vacancy. 
" What is it ? " I inquired, as I pulled up alongside 



of him. He turned slowly in the saddle and then 
pointed towards the horizon in front of him. I stared 
hard, but saw nothing but stones and sand and faded 
vegetation, and in the distance a small column of dust 
— a sand-devil, I thought ; they were common enough. 

I see nothing," I said, as I pulled out my field-glasses 
and swept the horizon. Wait a moment though. 
Yes, through the field-glasses the little cloud of dust did 
look different from the usual sand-devil, which whirled 
giddily round like some demented sprite and then 
vanished, unstable creation born and destroyed of the 
wind. There was something more solid about this, 
and, moreover, the cloud which but a moment before 
had been but the size of a man's hand was rapidly 
assuming alarming proportions. 

Mohammed looked anxiously back. The pack-ponies 
with the remainder of the escort were crawling leisurely 
along some distance behind, as is the manner of pack- 
ponies and muleteers when left to themselves. He 
signalled to them to hurry on, and then fixed his gaze 
in front of him once more. " We must wait here till 
they close up," he said. Dark objects began to show 
amid the approaching dust-cloud — numbers of them. 
The truth dawned upon me like a flash, and the revela- 
tion was not an altogether pleasant one. I had not the 
slightest doubt now what it was that was coming 
racing towards us behind that thin veil of sand, but I 
asked all the same. "Yes," came the reply, "Arabs, 
and all mounted." I glanced over my shoulder and 
noticed that the rest of our party were now close upon 
us, and then turned my eyes upon the object in front of 
us once more. I admit that my feelings were not those 
of absolute composure. When you see a body of forty 
or fifty mounted men, all armed with long spears, which 
they brandish menacingly over their heads, galloping 



furiously towards you, and are unaware of their exact 
intentions, you have some excuse for perturbation ; and 
that is what I saw now. Yet admiration struggled for 
a little foothold too, for it was a grand sight. The 
swarthy Arabs galloping recklessly over the desert 
plain, their long white robes streaming in the wind, and 
their whirling lances flashing in the sun, made a picture 
such as one does not often see. They were so eminently 
fitted to their surroundings — wild children of the desert, 
free as the winds, born to be lords of the land. 

But there was little enough time for musing, for the 
Arabs were now within rifle-shot, and seeing the rest of 
our party close up they halted too, and one of them 
rode forward in our direction a little ahead of his 
followers. It seemed that a parley was desired, and 
Mohammed rode slowly out to meet him, while we 
stayed still where we were. I fingered my revolver 
mechanically, and found myself listening for the beats 
of the pendulum of time, so slowly did the seconds 
pass. At last they met midway, and a period of 
strained excitement ensued. How long they talked I 
cannot say, probably not more than a few seconds, but 
it seemed long enough, and when at last they parted 
and a signal from Mohammed warned us to come on, 
the cry of the muleteers urging their charges on once 
more broke pleasantly across the desert air and relieved 
the nervous strain which had hung over all. As we 
rode slowly forward the opposing band divided to right 
and left while we passed through between them, and 
the last that I saw of them as they galloped away into 
space was a wild chase, which had all the appearance of 
a glorified pig-stick, in which one of the band selected 
for the purpose was the pig, pursued at break -neck 
speed by a delirious and shrieking band of his fellows 
across the plain. 



It is not always that a caravan will pass by such 
a company with impunity, though an affray with 
government soldiers armed with modern rifles is not 
altogether to the taste of such roving bands of free- 
booters, unless, as is sometimes the case, they are 
equally well armed themselves. Wandering over such 
a country as is theirs, it is perhaps only to be ex- 
pected that an independent and freedom -loving people 
such as they should treat the moral authority of the 
Porte with scant respect, and I thought more kindly 
of my friend the Colonel at Deir for his insisting on 
my being in a position to back mere moral persuasion 
with a show of force. 

The district which one traverses in a northern 
direction on the right bank of the Khabur river is 
the Gozan of the Old Testament, to which Shalman- 
ezer carried the captive Israelites in the reign of 
Hoshea, "and placed them in Halah and in Habor 
by the river of Gozan." ^ It was once prosperous and 
well wooded, but now a few mounds and scattered 
remnants of former buildings are all that remain ofj 
its erstwhile prosperity. ^ 

About sixty miles up the river is situated a small 
isolated police-station, Shehdadi, where the Khabur is 
crossed by means of a ferry similar to that at Deir, 
and the traveller strikes east into the heart of the 
Mesopotamian steppe. A long stretch it seems across 
the dreary, almost waterless desert, before the small 
settlements which cling to the foot of the Sinjar 
mountains are reached. My ponies were weak with 
long marching and short rations, and after plodding 
steadily along from sunrise on the 27th, we pitched 

1 2 Kings xvii. 6. Halah has been identified with Sar-i-pul i Zohab, the 
second stage on the Baghdad-Kermanshah route after crossing the Persian 
frontier. Vide Mrs Bishop's ' Travels in Persia and Kurdistan,' vol. i. 




camp in the middle of the plain shortly after sunset. 
A small pool two parts mud and two parts brackish 
water which we passed during the day, and at which 
we replenished our water-skins, formed the centre of 
a large Arab encampment, whose flocks of sheep and 
herds of camels were to be seen straying over the 
plain in all directions ; but these once passed, all signs 
of life vanished once more, and the great silence of 
solitude brooded over the land. Once or twice, it is 
true, small groups of horsemen, easily distinguishable 
in the distance by their long lances, would appear 
suddenly on the summit of some mound, but after 
taking stock of our party they would as suddenly melt 
away again, lost to view in the limitless expanse. 

At length on the evening of a cold clear day — 
for the winds in the winter are bitter and the ther- 
mometer is apt to sink low — we reached the first 
villages at the foot of the Jebel Sinjar, a limestone 
range which, with the Jebel Abdul Azziz, forms the 
only feature in Mesopotamia which can be termed 
mountain. All along the footline of the hills small 
villages, partly Mohammedan and partly Yezidi,^ are 
to be found, whose inhabitants cultivate the land. 

1 The Yezidis are a people living for the most part scattered over the 
country between Erivan and Jebel Sinjar. Their origin is unknown, and 
their religion is described as a mixture of the old Babylonian religion, 
Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Christianity, and as having also an 
afl&nity with that of the Ansariyeh. They were at one time much perse- 
cuted by the Turks, and owe much of their present freedom to the good 
offices of Sir Henry Layard, who in 1848 presented delegates from them 
to Sir Stratford Canning, the British ambassador at Constantinople. 
"Through his [Sir Stratford Canning's] kindly intercession a firman or 
imperial order was granted to the Yezidis, which freed them from all 
illegal impositions, forbade the sale of their children as slaves, secured to 
them the full enjoyment of their religion, and placed them on the same 
footing as other sects of the empire. It was further promised that arrange- 
ments should be made to release them from such military regulations as 
rendered their service in the army incompatible with the strict observance 



By the greatest bad luck a flying column of 
Turkish soldiers, returning to Mossul from a punitive 
expedition against the Shammar Arabs, — they had had 
an encounter in the desert a few days before, leav- 
ing, according to their own account, thirty Arabs dead 
upon the field, while they had despatched eight of 
their own men severely wounded to be looked after 
at Deir, — had elected to pass the night at the very 
village which I reached tired and hungry some two 
hours after sunset, with the result that every house 
was full of men and mules. My baggage was far 
behind, and I was unwillingly constrained to make the 
best of things in a mud shanty along with half a 
dozen Turkish soldiers and an odd villager or two, 
who had apparently been ousted from their own 
houses and overflowed into ours, as providing the 
only available space. This about filled up the room, 
and all were settling down comfortably for the night 
when the owners, who not altogether unnaturall 
seemed to think that they had some claim at least 
to standing-room in their own house, appeared upon 
the scene. The difficulty, however, was happily solved 
by the ejection of the family donkey, who, with 
stolid indifference to the unwonted company, wa' 
munching straw in a corner of the apartment. I 
was certainly a night to cause one to ponder some 
what regretfully upon the discarded comforts of civilis- 
ation, more especially when, to crown all, the occu- 
pants insisted on lighting a smoky wood -fire in the 
middle of the floor — there was no fireplace or chimney 
— and closing the only aperture, the door ! 

of their religious duties." — ' Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Baby-^ 
Ion,' by A. H. Layard. They seem to have many strange superstitions, and, 
according to Dr Wolfif, if a circle be drawn round them "they would 
rather die within it than attempt to escape out of it unless a portion of the 
circle be effaced." — 'Bokhara,' by the Rev. Joseph Wolff, D.D., LL.D. 



The country from the foot of the Sinjar Mountains to 
Mossul is slightly hilly, while an occasional village and 
patch of cultivation are to be met with ; but the general 
appearance is sufficiently depressing, and it comes as an 
intense relief when, from the summit of some slight 
eminence, the snow-clad wall of the Tiari heights to 
the east of the Tigris becomes visible, an effectual 
boundary to the seemingly interminable steppe. 

From the description given in the foregoing pages 
it will be gathered that the scene presented by the 
Mesopotamian desert is anything but exhilarating ; but, 
lest a wrong impression be gained, it must be added 
that at the time I saw the country it was neither 
at its best — nor quite at its worst. In spring much 
of the country teems with flowers and herbage, and 
presents an appearance of brilliant verdure resembling 
rather the broad stretches of an English down than 
the arid reaches of an Asian desert. Such viridity, 
however, is short-lived, and with the first feverish 
breath of summer all vegetation withers, as, under the 
fierce glare of an Eastern sun, the land becomes scorched 
and burnt, and where for a few short weeks a veritable 
garden flourished, nothing remains but a parched and 
dessicated waste, presenting all the savage horror of 
lifeless and dust-strewn desolation. Few Englishmen 
have known the country as did Sir Henry Layard, who 
has left us a vivid description of the rapid change from 
spring to summer : " The change to summer had been 
as rapid as that which ushered in the spring. The 
verdure of the plain had perished almost in a day. Hot 
winds coming from the desert had ^ burnt up and carried 
away the shrubs ; flights of locusts, darkening the air, 
had destroyed the few patches of cultivation, and had 
completed the havoc commenced by the heat of the 





Curiosity concerning the past — Collections of ancient records — Time the 
destroyer — Koyunjik and Nebi Yunus — Nimrud — The Germans at 
Babylon — Mossul — Down the Tigris on a raft — A useful escort ! — 
Samara and its objects of pilgrimage — The Malwiyeh — Latent wealth 
of the lands of the Tigris — Sir William Willcock's scheme — British 
Government must interest themselves — Chaldsea described by Hero- 
dotus — Reach Baghdad — The romance of Baghdad is of the past — A 
gufa — Described by Herodotus — Baghdad a commercial centre — 
Shortcomings of the Turkish Government — Fate of a public benefactor 
— Trade of Baghdad — Lack of transport — Extraordinary rates of 
freight — Great Britain must control the country from Baghdad to 
the Persian Gulf. 

There is deep down in the soul of man an intense 
curiosity concerning the past. He reads history and 
revels in the deeds of men and nations that are gone. 
But this is not enough. To the student of antiquity 
history as we know it is the story of modern times. 
Before the dawn of history, what then ? Who were 
they who dwelt in the earth in those remote times still 
hidden beneath the veil of oblivion, or appearing but 
dimly through the hazy light of confused tradition ? 
Whence came they, of what stock, who was there 
before them ? and if we probe the question to the 
bottom, what was the origin of man ? After the ques- 
tion " Why am I here ? " there is probably none that 



exceeds in interest that of " Who was here before 
me ? " and there can be few who have not been assailed 
at some time or other with a burning desire to " wind 
the mighty secrets of the past and turn the key of 

It is fortunate, therefore, that there is another trait 
common to mankind of all ages — namely, an uncon- 
querable aversion to being forgotten. Hence all these 
libraries of history, hence, too, the vast collections of 
ancient records and inscriptions, which are daily being 
added to from the buried cities of the East, all telling 
strange stories of kings and nations long since dead. 
There is many a monarch who reigned in the narrow 
strip of territory between the two great rivers of the 
Near East, who might well exclaim with the poet, 
" Exegi monumentum sere perennius." 

I do not think that any expert knowledge of Assyri- 
ology is necessary to arouse one's enthusiasm. I lay 
no claim to anything more than the most superficial 
acquaintance with the leaves of the great book of the 
past, and when those learned in such matters talk 
animatedly to me of the achievements of the great 
Sharrukin, 3800 years before our era,^ or of that bene- 
ficent lawgiver King Khamurabi and his code, I en- 
deavour to look wise and at the same time preserve a 
discreet silence. Nevertheless in the presence of the 

1 I believe that the oldest authenticated date is still that of Sharrukin 
(Sargon), King of Agadd, which was determined by the discovery of a 
cylinder of Nabonidus, the last King of Babylon ( 550 B.C.), whereon he 
has described the finding of the foundation cylinder of Naram-Sin, son of 
Sharrukin, in the great sun-temple at Sippar, " which for thrice thousand 
and twice hundred years none of the kings that lived before me had seen." 
This gives 3750 b.c. as the date of Naram-Sin (3200 + 550), and roughly 
3800 as the date of his father Sharrukin. I am aware, however, that 
Assyriologists at the present time — Professor Hilprecht, for instance — are 
confident of the tremendously ancient dates of from 7000 to 8000 B.C., 
though I know of no discovery which afi"oids definite proof of such a date. 



hoar ruins of the past I fall an easy victim to the spell 
of antiquity. For we have a strange reverence for all 
that is old. As I finger some tablet or cylinder of 
clay scored with the curious dashes of the cuneiform 
alphabet telling a tale of the past, and realise that 
I am handling the actual handiwork of some monarch 
who reigned five thousand years ago, which has lain 
silent in the earth while nations have come and gone, 
to hand his fame through the ages to a wondering 
posterity, I am conscious of an extreme fascination. 
And now as I wandered among the mounds of Nineveh 
and Babylon, and trod in the courts of Esarhaddon 
and Nebuchadnezzar, I dreamed dreams of the glory of 
their day, reconstructed the palaces and temples of 
their monarchs and their gods, and pictured dimly to 
myself " how the world looked when it was fresh and 
young, and the great deluge still had left it green."* 
And when I returned to earth again and gazed on the 
great piles of debris where stood great cities, the 
pathos of decay swept over me, and I bowed before 
the inexorable power of the destroyer Time. For here, 
as elsewhere, Time sadly overcometh all things, and 
amid such surroundings the poetic lines of Sir Thomas 
Brown held a strange charm for me : — 

Time sadly overcometh all things, and is now dominant and 
sitteth on a sphinx and looketh into Memphis and old Thebes, 
while his sister Oblivion reclineth semi-somnous on a pyramid 
gloriously triumphing, making puzzles of Titanian erections, and 
turning old glories into dreams. History sinketh beneath her 
cloud. The traveller as he paceth through those deserts asketh 
of her who builded them ? And she mumbleth something, but 
what it is he heareth not. 

But to leave generalities and descend to particulars, 
the great mounds of Koyunjik and Nebi Yunus, which 
rise within the colossal earthern ramparts that mark 




the walls of Nineveh, described by Xenophon as being 
upwards of 100 feet in height in his day, and still 
standing to a height of from 40 to 50 feet, guard well 
the treasures which they conceal.^ At the mound of 
Nimrud farther south, marking the site of a town 
founded by Shalmanezer in the year 1300 B.C., which 
reached the zenith of its greatness as the capital of 
King Asshurnazirpal in the ninth century B.C., there 
is far more to be seen than there is at Koyunjik. Here 
the tunnels dug by Sir H. Layard are still open, and 
the outside casing of huge square blocks of stone of 
the observatory tower are still visible and in excellent 
preservation.^ A vast store of monuments of the 
greatest interest have been removed from here, con- 
spicuous among them the famous black obelisk and a 
statue of Nebo, which now repose in the British 
Museum ; but even so, many carved stones are still 
lying where they were found, including the large figure 
of a man, the lower half still buried in the earth, and 
some beautiful specimens of the great winged bulls 
common at the entrance to the courts of Assyrian 

At Babylon, where German scientists had already 
been at work for four years, having built themselves, 
with German thoroughness, a house on the spot, still 
more is to be seen. The excavations, carried on 
systematically and thoroughly, have already laid bare 
the pavemented streets and the solid walls of the 
palaces and temples of the city described by Herodotus. 
In one part there is an excellent specimen of a keystone 

^ We may hope, however, to hear of further discoveries at Koyunjik, 
since Mr L. W. King arrived there in the spring of 1903 to carry on ex- 
cavations on behalf of the British Museum. 

2 This is one of the two ziggurats which have been found to have their 
sides and not their corners facing the four cardinal points. The other is 
the temple of Bel in Babylon. 



arch, — a crushing blow to the theory that the latter 
was a Roman invention ; and in another a wall orna- 
mented with figures in has - relief had recently been 

The present counterpart of ancient Nineveh is Mossul, 
which, as may already have suggested itself, has given 
its name to one of those fabrics which have found such 
favour with the ladies of the West : the connection is 
obvious — Mossul-lin, muslin. It stands on the right 
bank of the river, just opposite the site of the ancient :|| 
city, and of course it is surrounded by walls — no town 
would have remained a town for five minutes without ^ 
them, encompassed by freebooting Arabs. Seven gates " 
give access to the town, or nine if you include two 
which I think efive on to the river. Of course its 


interest cannot compare with that aroused by the 
stupendous piles of debris opposite, nevertheless it is ^ 
possessed of a distinct charm of its own. For it is a 
town which first and foremost can only be described || 
as of the East — Eastern. Absolutely untouched by 
Western influence, it remains what it has been ever 
since it came into being, affected little more by slight 
contact with the Turk in the shape of barracks, and the ■ 
governor of the province, of which it is the capital, 
than it is by the utter absence of European ideas. The 
bazaar is a scene of animated life, but the majority of 
the streets, when not mere tunnels through the build- 
ings, as is often the case, form a complex maze of 
narrow alleys, so narrow in many instances as to make 
it difficult for two persons to walk abreast conveniently, 
and enclosed by blind walls of such height that the sky 
is often only to be seen by craning one's neck upwards. 
Filth indescribable and unutterable is, needless to say, 
the predominant feature of the town, whose sanitary- 
arrangements cannot even be described as primitive, 




because there are none. I spent three days in the 
discomfort of a khan which has doubtless been accum- 
ulating dirt for some centuries, one of the " two 
scurvy inns" in all probability described by Tavernier 
in the seventeenth century as the only hostelries of 
the place, and then, having had a raft of skins con- 
structed, embarked on a journey down the Tigris. 

Floating down the Tigris on a raft is a restful and 
leisurely mode of progress, more especially when the 
wind happens to blow up-stream, in which case the 
word progress altogether ceases to be applicable to 
the situation, and makes a pleasant change from hard 
marching through a desert country. I had huts of 
felt stretched over a wooden frame erected on the 
raft for myself and Joseph, and before leaving took 
the precaution of securing the services of a soldier to 
act as escort and walking passport. With really 
supreme sagacity the authorities at Mossul, knowing 
that I was about to proceed through a country in- 
habited entirely by Arabs, selected for this duty a 
man who could only talk Kurdish ! As an ornament, 
his value was a negligible quantity ; as an article of 
practical utility, absolutely nil. On one occasion, while 
waiting close to a village on the river-bank, I suggested 
that he should clear off the Arabs who were crowding 
round and becoming a nuisance by reason of their too 
great inquisitiveness, to which he replied with every 
symptom of regret that he had no orders from his 
Government to shoot down the riparian population ! 
After this I ceased wasting time and energy in trying 
to knock sense through his abnormally thick skull, 
and made the best of a bad job by treating him as 
a huge joke. 

On the evening of the first day we glided over the 
great dam which stretches across the river twenty 



miles below Mossul, and later on passed the mound 
of Nimrud already referred to, the village of Kaleh 
Shergat close to the ruins of the ancient city of 
Asshur, which gave its name to the great Assyrian 
empire, and the hamlet of Tekrit, where I changed 
raftsmen, tying up on the evening of the fifth day 
close to the sacred city of Samara, whose brazen dome 
shone like molten gold in the rays of the setting sun. 

The town of Samara, situated on the left bank of 
the Tigris, not a mile and a half from the river, as 
stated in Murray's handbook (I made it just 550 paces 
from my raft to the city gate), is the usual collection 
of erections of sun - dried brick, surrounded by walls 
built by the richer pilgrims to resist the incursions of 
pillaging Bedouins. The objects of pilgrimage are the 
tomb of Imam Hussein Askar, above which rises the 
great golden dome which catches the eye from afar, 
and a small mosque and dome, beautifully embellished 
with enamelled tile-work, which mark the site of the 
disappearance of the Imam Mohammed el Mahdi, who, 
according to Moslem belief, will return to earth again 
with Christ at the end of the world. 

The only other object which stands out in relief 
against the dead level of the plain is a curious spiral 
tower built of brick, which rises to a height of 163 
feet at one end of a ruined madressah, and is known 
as the Malwiyeh. The spiral way which leads to the 
summit is now devoid of any rail, and presents a surface, 
from 2 to 4 feet in width, of brick roughly imbedded in 
cement. The portion giving access to the small turret 
which forms the apex has been much broken, and at 
the present time affords but a narrow ledge, which 
would constitute a formidable obstacle to any one with 

nerves" or a bad head for heights. The top of the 
turret itself is reached by a short flight of steps, and 



affords a fine view of the surrounding country. The 
whole length of the spiral way is something like 300 
yards — that is to say, I counted rather over 300 some- 
what uneven paces from the top to the bottom. 

The interest of the country south of Samara lies in 
its extraordinary agricultural potentialities. South of 
a line drawn from Hit on the Euphrates to Samara on 
the Tigris is a vast extent of magnificent alluvial soil, 
requiring only water to restore to it its pristine harvests. 
There are in Upper Chaldsea, according to Sir William 
Willcocks, — the famous originator of the great Assouan 
dam on the Nile, — no less than 1,280,000 acres "of 
first-class land, waiting only for water to yield at once 
a handsome return." Here, then, is an opening for 
British enterprise and capital. Here is an opportunity 
for Great Britain to encourage British capital to develop 
the resources of Mesopotamia, " as strengthening her 
political claim to consideration and excluding that of 
possible antagonists," ^ and to create vested interests 
which will refuse to be ignored when the day of the 
break-up of the Ottoman Empire is at hand. Sir 
William Willcocks gives an idea of the probable cost 
of a scheme of irrigation and of its results. £8,000,000, 
he says, should suffice for the irrigation of the 1,280,000 
acres of Upper Chaldaea — £7, that is, per acre. He 
values the land roughly at £38,000,000, and, placing 
the rent at about £3 per acre, shows a return of 
£3,840,000. Allowing nearly half of this sum for 
the up-keep of canals, there is still a net return of 
£2,000,000, or 25 per cent on £8,000,000 of capital. 

It may be urged that £8,000,000 is a large sum to 
sink in such a country as Asiatic Turkey, and that 
those who hesitated to risk £5,000,000 in a similar 
undertaking in Egypt under an excellent administra- 

^ Captain A. T. Mahan. 



tion, and who were sceptical of the estimated profits 
of such a venture, may well fight shy of investing 
capital in Turkey, a country notorious chiefly for its 
sublime contempt for anything which savours of order 
or justice. But in Egypt the dam is there, and is in 
itself a monumental answer to those who doubted. In 
the case of Mesopotamia it would certainly be necessary 
for the British Government to exert pressure at the 
Porte to secure a guarantee for the protection of the 
interests of those concerned, after first securing a con- 
cession for such an enterprise. Without a knowledge 
that the British Government was behind them it would 
be absurd to expect British capitalists to move in such 
an undertaking. 

No one will be found to-day to deny the beneficial 
results to Egypt of the monster dam of Assouan, and 
Sir William Willcocks could hardly have given a more 
alluring description of the potentialities of Egypt than 
he has of Chaldaea. Of all the regions of the earth 
no region is more favoured by nature for the production , 
of cereals than the lands of the Tigris. . . . Cotton, 
sugar-cane, Indian corn, and all the summer products 
of cereals, leguminous plants, Egyptian clover, opium, 
and tobacco will find themselves at home as they do 
in Egypt." Perhaps, after all, we should not accuse 
Herodotus of exaggeration when he wrote : " This is of 
all lands with which we are acquainted by far the best 
for the growth of corn. ... It is so fruitful in the 
produce of corn that it yields continually two hundred- 
fold, and when it produces its best, it yields even three 
hundred-fold. The blades of wheat and barley grow 
there to full four fingers in breadth ; and though I well 
know to what a height millet and sesame grow, I shall 
not mention it, for I am well assured that, to those who 
have never been in the Babylonian country, what has 



been said concerning its productions will appear to 
many incredible ! " ^ 

Perhaps when the schemes of Sir William Willcocks 
have been carried out, and corn is yielding three hundred- 
fold, and millet and sesame are growing to a height 
which even Herodotus would be unwilling to commit to 
writing, it will at last begin to dawn upon Downing 
Street that the dividends of any future Baghdad Rail- 
way will not be dependent solely upon a somewhat 
hypothetical through traffic to India. 

On the morning of the seventh day after embarking 
at Mossul, the buildings of Baghdad came into sight, at 
the far end of a long vista of palm-trees, and a few 
hours later I left my floating domicile, and installed 
myself in the capital. 

As I have pointed out already in chap. i. , any one who 
comes to the present capital of Chaldsea expecting to 
find in it some semblance of the Baghdad of his imagin- 
ation will be rudely disappointed. It must be admitted 
that the magnificence and romance of Baghdad lie 
almost entirely in tradition, — the hopelessly common- 
place buildings and bazaars on either bank of the river 
affording an entirely inadequate setting to the lives of 
Harun-al-Raschid and the Khalifs, or to the engrossing 
scenes of the * Arabian Nights.' The palm-trees which 
line the river banks and give a certain picturesqueness 
to the town cease with abrupt suddenness immediately 
the river is left ; and all round, encroaching upon the 
very houses of the city itself, the mournful desolation 
common to uncultivated ground in lands where, for 
half the year, a scorching sun looks down from a brazen 
sky, and where 120° in the shade is no uncommon read- 
ing of the thermometer in summer, reigns supreme. 

As far as the town itself is concerned, there can be 

^ Herodotus, Book I. chap. 193. 



few who will not agree with Sir F. Goldsmid when he 
says that "the streets are narrow, dirty, gloomy, and 
irregular ; " ^ or again, when he opines that the occa- 
sional prettily - domed mosque is, after all, " painfully 
like a crockery Jlngan, or coffee-cup, of the blue flower 
pattern." ^ The river is perhaps the most attractive 
feature of the town, being covered with native craft of 
all sorts, and presenting a scene of lively animation. 
Conspicuous among them are the curious round guffas^ 
a form of boat which appears to have remained constant 
since the days of Herodotus. From the appearance of 
the vessel in question, a specimen of which may be seen 
in the foreground of the photograph here reproduced, it 
will be observed how accurately the description given 
by that historian fits at the present day : " Their 
vessels that sail down the river to Babylon are cir- 
cular, and made of leather. For when they have cut 
the ribs out of willows that grow in Armenia above 
Babylon, they cover them with hides extended on the 
outside, by way of a bottom ; neither making any dis- 
tinction in the stern, nor contracting the prow, but 
making them circular like a buckler." ^ 

Is Baghdad, then, a great commercial centre ? The 
answer may be given in the affirmative, provided you 
qualify it with the all-important words " for Turkey." 
The whole of the surrounding country is fed by Baghdad, 
as also are many of the markets of Western Persia, 
notably those of Kermanshah and Hamadan ; but they 
are not fed to the extent that they ought to be : firstly, 
because of lack of communications other than mule- 
tracks ; and, secondly, because of obstruction on the part 
of the Turkish Government, where assistance and en- 

1 Telegraph and Travel. Sir F. Goldsmid. 

2 Ibid. 

2 Herodotus, Book I. chap. 194. 



couragement should naturally be looked for. Railways 
there are none, if I except the short tramway which 
runs a few miles to the Mosque of Kazimin, and which 
I believe is a great success financially ; and the number 
of steamers which ply between Baghdad and Basra is 
limited to four, two of which may generally be counted 
on as being hors de combat, since they are run by a 
Turkish firm. 

Enterprise is likely to meet with a sharp rebuke, as 
instanced by the fate of the Pasha who, a short time 
ago, built an excellent bridge which spans the river at 
the present time. Great were the preparations for the 
opening of this work of public benefit. The crowds 
assembled, and expectation ran high ; but, alas ! no 
governor appeared to perform the opening ceremony. 
It was a great pity, but it was inevitable. The broad- 
minded governor had been mentioned by the mullah 
in public prayer as a benefactor to his country, and his 
fame had reached the ears of the Sublime Porte. His 
immediate recall was the result. The Sultan can brook 
no interference in his monopoly of the deity ! 

The trade of Baghdad in 1902 amounted to 
£2,560,232, divided as follows : Exports, £575,253, 
and imports, £1,984,979. This trade might be greatly 
increased even at the present time by so simple a pro- 
cedure as insisting upon the Porte removing the absurd 
limitation of two steamers a-week, which is all that 
is allowed to Messrs Lynch. It seems a most extra- 
ordinary thing that we should be powerless to effect so 
necessary a step. Not very long ago permission was 
obtained by Messrs Lynch to draw a barge along with 
their steamers, but this was regarded as a great diplo- 
matic triumph ! The result, as pointed out by Major 
Newmarch, acting British Consul- General, is that the 
delay in Basra, more especially since there is a want of 




proper go-downs and cover for goods while waiting 
there, is a serious matter, and most detrimental to the 
entire trade of the province. I was informed by a 
friend that he had seen as much as 8000 tons of 
merchandise lying waiting transportation at Basra at 
one time ; and it is no doubt perfectly true, as Mr 
Whigham has said, that goods are as often six months 
on the way from London to Baghdad as not.^ 

But this is not the only objection to entire absence of 
competition bn the Tigris. At the time of my visit 
competition had lowered the rate of freight from London 
to Basra to about 15s. per ton,^ while absence of com- 
petition had raised it between Basra and Baghdad to 
from £2 to £2, 5s. per ton ! Thus we see the astound- 
ing phenomenon of the freight of goods from Basra to 
Baghdad, a distance roughly of 500 miles, amounting to 
nearly four times the freight of goods from London to 
Basra ! On the journey back from Baghdad a different 
state of things exists, since native craft carry a good 
deal of stuff down-stream, and the charge is reduced to 
about 12s. 

These few facts alone are sufficient to show that the 
trade of Baghdad is not what it might be, even under 
existing circumstances. Were the purchasing power of 
the people to be increased by the realisation of some 
such scheme as that of Sir William Willcocks, it is 
obvious that a very large increase would speedily 

British control from Baghdad to the Gulf should 
be the watchword of British diplomacy in this par- 
ticular square of the board, and, of course, railway 

1 The Persian Problem. H, J. Whigham. 

2 This was the figure given me by a merchant. Major Newmarch gives 
the figure for 1902 as from £1, 17s. 6d. to £2. 



construction comes under this head. Why such a 
line was not built years ago is a mystery, but the 
fact remains that it was not. The time for monopoly 
has gone by ; let us at least see to it that we secure 
control of any future extension of the Baghdad rail- 
way from that place to the sea. 





Railway projects in the past — The success of Germany — Lack of interest 
of British Government in the past — English concessions pass to other 
countries — The prophecy of the deputation of 1857 — The German 
commission of 1899 — The concession of 1902 — Proposed route of the 
line — Branch lines — Description of the country through which the line 
will pass — The Taurus barrier — Possibilities of Asia Minor — Law- 
lessness of Mesopotamia — Important towns all lie to the north — The 
right bank of the Tigris preferred to the left — Centres of pilgrimage 
— Points to be remembered in criticising the line — The financial 
prospect — International complications — Germanophobia in England 
— The line as an alternative route for the Indian mails — The con- 
ditions upon which Great Britain must insist as essential to her 
co-operation — The position of Great Britain with regard to the rail- 
way — The state of affairs at the present time. 

If there is much that is wearisome in a journey 
through the Asiatic dominions of the Sultan, there 
is also much that is of considerable interest, as I hope 
may have been made clear by a perusal of the fore- 
going chapters ; but the problem of supreme interest 
to myself, and I have no doubt to many others as well, 
which is brought under consideration in the course of a 
journey such as I have already described, in that its 
solution is likely to have a vital effect for good or 
for evil upon the fortunes of Great Britain in Asia, 
has yet to be dealt with : and since a desire to ac- 
quaint myself as fully as possible with the possi- 



bilities and probabilities, as affecting this country, of 
any future railway to the Persian Gulf alone deter- 
mined the direction of my journey, I have no hesita- 
tion in setting before my readers the situation in 
connection with the so-called " Baghdad railway," as 
I understand it at the present time. 

And when considering the prospects of a railway 
which is to connect Constantinople with the Persian 
Gulf, it is impossible to help recalling the long story 
of brilliant inception which distinguishes the part 
played by Great Britain at intervals during a period 
of upwards of sixty years, in an endeavour to in- 
augurate a system of direct land communication be- 
tween Europe and the seas of Southern Asia, or to 
refrain from indulging in a lament at the remorseless 
regularity with which the lifelong efforts of more 
than one patriotic Englishman were destined to 
flicker out in a pitiable succession of unrewarded and 
abortive endeavour. The attempts made during the 
first half of the nineteenth century to navigate the 
Euphrates, a relic of which may still be seen in the 
garden of the British Consulate at Aleppo, in the shape 
of the small guns with which the steamers were to 
have been fitted, followed during the early years of 
the latter half by the railway schemes inseparably con- 
nected with the names of Chesney and Andrew ; the 
reawakening of public interest a few years later in 
a short road to the East, which led to the drawing 
up of a report by a select committee, and again early 
in the last quarter of the waning century, as indicated 
by the formation of the " Euphrates Valley Railway 
Association," pass successively across the scene, to 
terminate in an attempt by a group, chiefly English, 
to obtain a concession, up to the very time that the 
telegram was despatched to the Emperor William 



at Windsor, granting to a German syndicate a con- 
cession to draw up a report concerning the construc- 
tion of an iron way, which would pass through the 
heart of the Asiatic dominions of the autocrat at 
Yildiz, and forge the much-talked-of link which was 
to complete the chain of railroad communication from 
Paris to the Persian Gulf 

I have always regarded it as a cause for regret that, 
despite the untiring efforts of such pioneers of empire, 
England failed to construct the railway advocated. 
The British Government could by no means be in- 
duced to look favourably upon the scheme, and with- 
out the countenance of the Government British capit- 
alists fought shy. Moreover, at no time did British 
railway enterprise receive that measure of approbation 
from the Porte which that body has been pleased to 
display towards the schemes of other nations. When 
Great Britain was alone in the field, British promoters 
paid scant attention to the wishes of the Porte, and 
calmly ignored the fact that a railway with its 
terminus on the Levant, many hundreds of miles from 
the Turkish capital, was regarded with little favour 
by the Government through whose territory it was 
intended that it should pass. 

As time went on rival Powers entered upon the 
field of railway expansion in the Near East, and 
not only did the proposed trunk line fail to assume 
material form, but other railways originally English 
passed slowly but surely into other hands, so that, 
whereas the Mersina- Adana, the Smyrna- Aidin, the 
Smyrna - Cassaba, and the Haida - Pasha - Ismid lines 
were all in the first instance built with English 
capital and English material and under English man- 
agement, the Smyrna- Aidin line is the solitary English 
concern remaining at the present day. Such a state 



of affairs, to whatever it may have been due, — and 
it was due to various causes which I need not enter 
into here, — has undoubtedly been detrimental to British 
influence and trade ; but what is perhaps of even 
greater moment at the present time is the fact that 
the words of the deputation which waited upon Lord 
Palmerston in 1857, to the effect that the Euphrates 
Valley Railway would pass into other hands if Great 
Britain declined the task, have at length been fulfilled. 

Little good, however, is now to be gained by indulg- 
ing in lamentation over neglected opportunities of the 
past ; rather is it of more profit to make some attempt 
to inquire into the probabilities of the future, and to 
consider in what way and to what extent the interests 
of our own country are likely to be affected by the pro- 
ject known as the Baghdad Railway Scheme." 

As a result, then, of the preliminary concession of 
1899, a committee was appointed with a view to 
surveying and reporting upon the country through 
which the line would pass, and was occupied from 
the middle of September 1899 to the beginning of 
April 1900 in conducting a practical examination on 
the spot. As evidence of the success of their labours 
came the news of the concession of January 1902 for 
the extension of the existing line between Haida- Pasha 
and Konia to Baghdad and the Persian Gulf. Now, 
in treating of the route to be followed by the future 
line, I would qualify any statement that I may make 
by the remark that I consider that he would be a 
bold seer who ventured to prophesy with any degree 
of confidence regarding it ; but for the purposes of 
the agreement a line was sketched out which will 
pass through the country as follows : from Konia it 
will pass by Karaman to Eregli, from which point it 
will enter the Bulgar Dagh, and by many loops and 



tunnels compass the descent of the 3400 feet to the 
Cilician plain. In the course of this descent of the 
Taurus it will not, as popularly supposed, pass through 
the famous Cilician Gates, but will follow the course 
of a small river, the Tchakid Su, east of the* pass, 
and thence debouch on to the plain. Crossing the 
level expanse of Cilicia by Adana — already connected 
with the sea by the Mersina-Tarsus- Adana line, forty 
miles in length — it will encounter the only other great 
physical obstacle which will be met with, in the shape 
of the Giaour Dagh. This range will be crossed either 
by the Arslani Bell above Bagche, necessitating an 
ascent of upwards of 3000 feet, or by the ridge above 
the village of Hassan Beyli to the south of Bagche. 
Personally I crossed by the latter, and it appeared to 
me that a tunnel might be made here at no very great 
cost, considerably lessening the ascent, and the descent 
to the valley of the Kara Su on the far side. Having 
reached the valley of the Kara Su, a remarkable stretch 
of ground extending practically from Marash in the 
north to Antioch in the south, part marsh, part culti- 
vation, and part woodland, it will turn south to the 
extremity of the Kurt Dagh, and rounding the latter, 
reach Killis, a small town situated at the foot of the 
mountains. Between the valley of the Kara Su and 
the Euphrates, which will be crossed about 20 kilo- 
metres south of Birejik, the low ridges which enclose 
the basins of the Afrin, the Kowaik, and the Sajur 
intervene ; but these are of no great height, and will 
offer little resistance to the engineers. From the 
Euphrates, which will require a considerable bridge, 
the line might almost have been drawn with a ruler 
to the Tigris at Mossul, passing only the insignificant 
villages of Harran, Ras-el-Ain, and Nissibin on the 
way. From Mossul to Baghdad the right bank of the 



Tigris will be followed; but from the latter place the 
line will turn south-west to the Euphrates, and, cross- 
ing that river for the second time, reach the Gulf 
by Kerbela and Zobair, the suggested terminus being 
Kasima on the bay of Koweit. 

So much for the direction to be followed by the 
main line. The branch lines included in the con- 
cession are as follows : (1) from Tel Habesch, a little 
east of Killis to Aleppo, a distance of 60 kilometres ; 
(2) from Sadiyeh on the Tigris to Khanikin on the 
Persian frontier, 115 kilometres; (3) from Zobair to 
Basra, 19 kilometres. A branch line is also to be 
built in the future, when the receipts of the main 
line admit of it, to Diarbekr, and a temporary line 
for construction purposes is to be taken from the 
main line in the Cilician plain to some point on the 
Gulf of Alexandretta, probably Yumurtalik on the 
bay of Ayas. I have already given some description 
of the country in the course of the preceding narra- 
tive, but before discussing the questions which are 
suggested by a consideration of such a line in all its 
bearings, it may be well to recapitulate briefly the 
particulars of such description which bear directly upon 
the construction of the railway. 

The direct road from Konia to Eregli lies across the 
eastern extremity of the Axylon plain, which presents 
to the eye an expanse of savage sterility which can 
scarcely claim for itself any other term than that of 
desert. For this reason the line makes a bend by 
Karaman, more fortunate in being situated on the 
fringe of the desert than Karabunar, a small village 
which stands in the centre midway between Konia and 
Eregli. It is at this latter place that the Bulgar Dagh 
will be entered, and between here and Adana that the 
descent of the Taurus will present a formidable though 



by no means insurmountable obstacle to the engineer. 
The main artery leading south from the important com- 
mercial centre of Kaisariyeh will be cut at Porsuk, and 
the long strings of camels — I passed something like 
a thousand in the course of a single day returning 
lightly laden from the coast — which now bear burdens 
of hides and grain, passing with silent ghostly tread 
over the highway of conquering armies of the past, 
must ere long give place to the iron horse. As far 
as the bridge over the Tchakid Su at Ak Keupri it will 
follow the existing road, and in so doing will encounter 
no engineering difficulty greater than that afforded by 
a gradient of, at the outside, 1 in 80 ; ^ but from here 
on the caravan road must be left, and the one serious 
difficulty of the whole line is soon afterwards en- 
countered in a vast mountain wall nearly 2000 feet in 
height, with hardly any room for curves in surmount- 
ing it, which rises between the valley of the Tchakid 
Su and the Cilician plain. ^ I was informed by an 
engineer who had accompanied the Commission of 1899 
that as many as seventy tunnels would be required in 
surmounting this obstacle, but the preliminary survey 
was admittedly a rough one, and a further detailed 
survey will have to be undertaken before this section 
of the line is constructed. 

Arrived at the foot of the mountains, it is natural to 
inquire why, when there is already a railway to the sea, 
another line — the temporary branch I have already 
spoken of — should be required, tapping the identical 

1 Professor Eamsay writes as follows : " Once placed at the northern 
end of the pass, the line has a gentle descent down a continuous easy 
glen — interrupted only once by a ridge of no serious consequence — for 
about 35 miles. In those 35 miles the descent is only about 2200 feet, 
giving, without any zigzags, a gradient of 1 in 80, roughly speaking." — 
Journal of the Eoyal Geographical Society for October 1 903. 

2 The Tchakid Su escapes through an underground channel 



district. The answer is to be found partly in the fact 
of some hitch having arisen in the negotiations for buy- 
ing up the line entered upon by the German company, 
and partly in the unsuitableness of Mersina as a port. 
A demand was long since made, it is true, by the pro- 
moters of the Mersina- Adana Railway for a concession 
for improving the port by means of a breakwater, but 
this, victim perhaps of the intrigue of rival schemes, 
still lies with many another in the dead letter oJBBce at 
Yildiz. From the description given in chap. iv. it will 
have been gathered that in Cilicia the Government 
have so far displayed an extraordinary aptitude for 
burying their talent in the ground, and further com- 
ment is unnecessary here. Passing mention has also 
been made of the probable line of ascent and descent of 
the range of the Giaour Dagh. Though a system of no 
great width, the traveller crossing it will find ample 
grounds for singing its praises, the snow-bound wall 
of the higher peaks standing out in sharp contrast 
above the lower slopes, clothed with a mantle of 
mountain laurel, box, and ilex bushes. 

In the vicinity of Killis vast groves of olives fill the 
view, and the rolling expanse between that place and 
Aleppo presents a broad smiling stretch of well- 
cultivated plain. 

From this description it will be gathered that thus 
far the line will pass through a country of vast latent 
possibilities, which is blessed even now by considerable 
agricultural and commercial development ^ and some of 

^ As evidence of the development of the country by railvp-ays, see the 
report published by the Public Debt Administration in 1903, wherein it is 
estimated that the tithes of the districts traversed or aflfected by the rail- 
ways have increased in the last twelve years by 46 per cent. According to 
Consul Waugh, the Angora district, which exported no grain before the 
railway was opened, now has an annual export of wheat and barley valued 
at from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000. 



the elements of public security ; but it is to be feared 
that from here on to Baghdad the country to be 
traversed can boast neither of the one nor of the other. 
After crossing the Euphrates and the low ridge of 
Jebel Tek-Tek, the line will run through a country 
consisting of a practically featureless steppe, whose 
rolling undulations succeed one another with mono- 
tonous regularity. Nor would it appear that the lack 
of natural attraction has been compensated for by the 
art of man, the mouldering ruins, which are in keeping 
everywhere with the forlorn aspect of the scene, bear- 
ing eloquent testimony to the wild depredations of 
Kurd and Arab, who from the days of their first con- 
tact seem to have regarded the plains of northern 
Mesopotamia as a legitimate stage for the enactment 
of a drama of wholesale bloodshed and destruction. 
Indeed, Ibrahim Pasha, on the west, and, until his 
recent violent death, Mustapha Pasha, on the east, 
might well congratulate themselves on being far from 
unworthy recipients of the mantle of Timur, who five 
centuries earlier stamped upon this self-same district 
an indelible trail of desolation — inevitable legacy of 
his victorious progress through Asia. 

On such a line no places of importance will be found. 
Harran, the ancient city of Nahor, to which Abraham 
migrated from Ur of the Chaldees, consists now of a 
low range of mounds on either side of the river Belik, 
whose chief object of interest is, probably, the far- 
famed well of Bebecca. Bas-el-Ain is only a small 
village, and Nissibin a moderate mud town. No 
advantage, then, for this route can be claimed on the 
grounds of its passing through any large centres of 
trade, all of which — Marash, Aintab, Birejik, Urfa, 
Diarbekr, Mardin — lie far to the north, and the whole 
advantage which it offers is summed up in directness of 



line and absence of physical obstruction. Such oppo- 
sition as will be encountered in this section will be 
provided by paucity of water, dust - storms, and 
the raids of a lawless and migratory population, more 
especially if history repeats itself, and it is found in 
the case of the future railway, as has been found 
in the case of those already constructed, that, to 
use the words of Mr Hogarth, the primary result 
of an extension of railways in Anatolia has always 
been an extension of brigandage." 

Mossul itself is a town of some importance, being the 
largest centre in northern Mesopotamia ; but it is 
hardly probable that the goods which are now floated 
down the river on rafts will not continue to be so in 
the future, more especially since the wood forming a 
large portion of the raft is sold at a profit at the end 
of the journey. Moreover, the country on the right 
bank of the river through which the line will run is 
almost entirely desert, roamed over by the Shammar 
Arabs, the promoters being of opinion, seemingly, that 
the saving of distance and modest opposition afforded 
by the few dessicated waddies and low ridges en- 
countered on the right bank more than compensate 
for the greater promise offered by the fertile lands of 
the left, more especially since the difference in cost 
between the two routes is estimated at approximately 
76,000,000 francs. As it is, there is little prospect for 
many years to come of any greater effect from its con- 
struction in these parts being attained than a slight 
increase in the local reputation of the hot baths at 
Hammum Ali and some small growth in the few mud 
villages which hug the river bank. 

South of Baghdad the country between the two 
great rivers is too marshy to admit of rails being laid, 
and the Euphrates will have to be crossed once more, 



and its right bank followed to the Gulf. The great 
centres of pilgrimage — Kazimin, Nejef, and Kerbela — 
will be passed, and high expectations are set on the 
receipts which it is anticipated will accrue from the 
vast numbers of pilgrims, estimated at 100,000 annually, 
bearing an average number of 60,000 corpses to be 
entombed in proximity to the departed saints, — the 
Imams Musa, Ali, and Hussein. At first sight it 
would appear that land transport could never compete 
successfully with the existing water-way from Baghdad 
to the Gulf; but it must be remembered that, so far, 
British diplomacy has only succeeded in obtaining per- 
mission for Messrs Lynch to run one steamer a-week on 
these waters, while the only other company running 
steamers, being Turkish, need hardly be considered. 
Even in face of this puny competition the promoters 
have proved their business capacity by securing under 
article ix. of the Convention of March 1903 the right 
during construction to acquire and use steam and 
sailing vessels and other craft on the Shatt-el-Arab, 
the Tigris, and the Euphrates, for the transport of 
materials and other requirements, while under article 
xxiii. the company has the right of establishing ports 
at Baghdad, Basra, and the terminal point on the 
Persian Gulf 

In making any criticism of such a line, it must be 
remembered that those responsible for it were con- 
fronted by a variety of considerations. The obvious 
route from Adana, for instance, along the coast to the 
port of Alexandretta, thence over the Beylan Pass to 
Aleppo, had to be discarded on the grounds of its 
exposure to attack from the sea, similar considera- 
tions being responsible for the refusal of the Sultan to 
sanction a permanent branch to the coast. I have 
italicised the word temporary in this connection, 



because it is impossible to suppose that the shrewd 
promoters of the scheme will consent to its removal 
when once it has been built, since without such a 
branch it would be folly to imagine that they could 
compete with the existing camel transport between 
Alexandretta and Aleppo. 

The most glaring defect, however, which is likely to 
strike any one looking at the project from a commercial 
point of view, is the persistent way in which all the 
large towns of Northern Mesopotamia are left severely 
on one side. Here, again, those responsible had much 
to take into consideration. On economic grounds, as 
far as actual construction was concerned, the more 
southern trace was far preferable, avoiding as it did 
the mountainous districts in which are situated the 
larger towns, while to the Turk, sublimely disdainful 
of commercial returns, the shortest route connecting 
the 6th army corps at Baghdad with the 1st, 2nd, and 
3rd at Constantinople, Adrianople, and Monastir, and, 
when the Damascus- Aleppo line, already constructed as 
far as Hamah, is completed, with the 5th at Damascus, 
seemed distinctly the most desirable. Nor must it be 
forgotten that that Power which was careful to exact 
from the Sultan an agreement for the monopoly of 
railway construction in the Black Sea basin has used 
its powerful influence at Yildiz to frustrate any scheme 
which might form the basis of an eflective zone of 
defence and offence on the north-eastern frontier of the 
Ottoman Empire.^ 

1 As part of a scheme of Turkish defence, Colonel Mark Bell advocated 
in the ' Journal of the Koyal United Service Institution ' of September 1899 
the construction of two main lines as follows : (1) Starting from Iskan- 
derun or some neighbouring post on the Mediterranean, and proceeding 
vid Aleppo, Birejik, and Urfa ; (2) running from the northern post of 
Samsun through Tokat, Sivas, Kharput, and Diarbekr, so as to join the 
western line at Mardin. Herein is to be found in part the explanation 



As regards the southern extremity of the line, looked 
at from the point of view of local development, it may- 
be said that in the Baghdad and Basra districts there 
is a country of vast potential wealth ; but it may with 
equal truth be said that until the nomadic propensities 
of the population are given up for those of a settled 
existence, and the whole country rejoices in the benefits 
of law and order to a degree which it is to be feared 
will not be attained under the existing regime, there 
is little prospect of Chaldsea revelling once more in the 
abundant prosperity of an almost forgotten past. 

If, then, the probability of immediate returns from 
local development is not great, it must not be supposed 
that those whose duty it has been to estimate the 
prospects from a financial point of view have deceived 
themselves as to the probable result. Hard-headed men 
of business, qualified to form a right judgment, are of 
opinion that working expenses will be covered, though 
no surplus will for some time be forthcoming, and it 
is unlikely therefore that the line will be built until 
these same men of business see where the promised 
State guarantee, amounting in all to something like 
£1,000,000 per annum, is to come from. 

And here it is that complications of an international 
nature arise, and here that Great Britain will eventually 
have to come to a decision one way or the other — to 
assume an aspect of friendly co-operation or of hostile 
opposition. For though it was at one time hoped that 
a considerable sum might be available for the purposes 
of the guarantee from the conversion and unification of 
the Ottoman public debt, it is now generally recognised 

of the Black Sea Basin Convention, and the southern trace of the German 
line. It is worth remembering that the Russian Tugovitch proposed that 
Russia herself should build the Baghdad line, a suggestion, however, which, 
despite the supposed favour shown towards it by M. de Witte, was 
negatived by the Cabinet. 



that such guarantee can only be found from an increase 
of the import duties, which increase cannot be secured 
without the contraction of new commercial treaties. 
Any such increased revenue could now be applied to 
any purpose the Sultan thought fit, since under the con- 
version and unification scheme, recently consummated, 
the bondholders gave up the exclusive lien on any fresh 
revenue resulting from any increase in the import duty 
which was theirs by right of article viii. of the Decree 
of Moharrem (December 8, 1881). 

At the present time we may safely assume that 
Germany is the only Power that has signified her 
acquiescence in a revision of the existing commercial 
treaty, and that while France, Austria, and Italy are 
willing to do so, England and Russia object. There is 
no occasion to discuss the attitude of Russia beyond 
remarking that a due consideration paid to her large 
export of corn and oil, when any future tariff is framed, 
will probably sufiice to obtain her consent to it. Eng- 
land, whose trade with Turkey is far larger than that 
of any other single country, has reasonable grounds for 
raising objection to any alteration in the existing fiscal 
arrangements which may affect her trade adversely. 
But let it not be forgotten that such a scheme as this 
must be looked at from the broader point of view of 
imperial policy, and it is to be hoped that it will be 
found possible for us to pursue a course of cordial 
co-operation given in return for certain privileges — 
in other words, that, in return for our waiving all 
objections to a revision of the customs tariff*, and for 
our providing facilities for the acquisition of a terminus 
on the Gulf, we are allotted an equal share of the capital, 
and receive adequate representation on the Board. 

It is of course impossible to be blind to the fact that 
there is in England at the present time a certain school 




of political thought to whose followers the word German 
is as a thing accursed, and who are so blinded by their 
Germanophobia that the mere suggestion of any enter- 
prise undertaken in concert with that Power evokes 
from them a chorus of hysterical denunciation. Never- 
theless, when a decision has to be made, it must and will 
be made without reference to the ephemeral jealousies 
of prejudiced politicians. Let me at once admit that I 
have no desire whatsoever to see any formal alliance 
contracted with Germany, any more than with any other 
Continental Power ; but to work in friendly co-operation 
with the people of another nation in a mission of civilisa- 
tion is a totally different thing from being bound by 
the chains of a formal alliance, and to put unnecessary 
obstacles in the way of any scheme which tends to 
improve and bring the ameliorating influences of civilisa- 
tion within reach of a people who are in sore need of 
them is to renounce the high mission which it has ever 
been the pride of England to uphold. Nor from a 
material point of view would such an arrangement be 
devoid of mutual benefit. Any scheme which tends to 
defer the partition of Turkey — for it must be borne in 
mind that I am discussing the line on the assumption 
that it is an international enterprise — is to the ad- 
vantage of Great Britain, since the integrity of Turkey, 
Persia, and Afghanistan has been the dominating note 
of her policy in the Near East, nor can any undertaking 
which tends to quicken commerce be anything but 
advantageous to the nation that holds the lion s share, 
provided of course that preferential treatment to parti- 
cular nations is disallowed. In addition, the participa- 
tion of England would secure for our own manufacturers 
orders for a proportion of the requisite material for 

The original promoters of the scheme would, on the 



other hand, profit by the support England could give 
to the traffic in the shape of a contract for the Indian 
mails. It is calculated that, provided an improved 
service of steamers were run from the terminus on the 
Persian Gulf to Kurrachi, a saving of 3 days 16^ hours 
would be effected on the present 14 days 16 hours to 
India ; and, estimating the subsidy now given to the 
P. and 0. Company for carrying the mails to India at 
£90,000, an increase of about 500 francs per kilometre 
would accrue. The tendency of passenger traffic is like- 
wise to follow the mails, and in addition to a saving of 
nearly four days, it can be shown that the first-class 
fare would be reduced from £72 to £61. 

It is of course possible that in renewing the 
contract with the P. and O. Company the Gov- 
ernment might stipulate for a higher rate of speed 
than the present 14|- knots, and were 19 knots 
attained the post to India would occupy only eleven 
days. Many who, in common with myself, have 
passed through the irritating experience of having 
to slow down to half speed to avoid reaching 
Bombay before the appointed day, can testify to 
the ease with which the speed of the P. and O. 
service might be increased ; but to attain a uniform 
speed of 19 knots would doubtless entail an enor- 
mously increased consumption of coal and consequent 
expenditure, for which there would appear to be no 

From what I have written above it might per- 
haps be inferred that I was disappointed at the 
decision of his Majesty's Government, made known 

1 It is gratifying to learn from Sir E. Law's speech on the Indian 
budget in March of this year that the English mail contract with the 
P. and O. Company has been renewed for a period of three years, on 
condition that the mails are to be delivered twenty-four hours earlier 
at either end. 



in the House of Commons on April 23, 1903. Let 
me hasten to dissipate any such inference. My 
desire to see British co-operation is prompted not 
by any quixotic goodwill towards Germany, but by 
the necessity, which is plainly apparent, of protect- 
ing our own interests. Nothing could be more 
fatuous than for us to look quietly on, while a 
railway in the hands of two foreign nations, " with 
whom," to quote the words of the Prime Minister, 
we are on the most friendly terms, but whose 
interests may not be identical with our own," is 
being pushed right down to a sea with which we 
are so closely concerned as the Persian Gulf. And 
so I urge CO - operation, in order that the railway 
may become an international undertaking, and that 
Great Britain may have that voice in the matter 
which, in view of her special interests, she is entitled 
to demand. But though I urge co-operation I urge 
it upon certain conditions, because I realise that 
Great Britain is in a position to dictate. On no 
account should the Government consent to further 
the undertaking without the certainty of securing 
equal powers of construction, management, and con- 
trol. I have elsewhere urged that the section from 
Baghdad to the gulf should be placed in British 
hands ; ^ but should this prove impracticable, the con- 
ditions as stated above should, provided we main- 
tain our supremacy in the gulf, prove adequate to 
safeguard our interests. It was because these con- 
ditions were not guaranteed that the Government 
refused their support in the spring of 1903, and it 
is because I am convinced that in the end these 
conditions will be offered that I welcome the 
decision which was then come to. 

^ In an article written for 'The Times' of April 9, 1903. 



I have said that Great Britain is in a position 
to dictate, because I believe that, in spite of the 
emphatic declaration of Mr Balfour in the House of 
Commons on April 8, 1903, that "the project will 
ultimately be carried out, with or without our having 
a share in it," it will not see realisation in the face 
of the uncompromising opposition of this country. 
Great Britain holds two trump-cards : firstly, in the 
opposition she can raise to any revision of the customs 
— and the Deutsche Bank must eventually realise 
that the favourable attitude of Great Britain is a 
necessity ; and, secondly, in our position of ascend- 
ancy at Koweit, When the extension is built from 
Baghdad to the Persian Gulf, it will most assuredly 
be of England's grace and not of England's necessity. 
We can afford, then, to content ourselves, as our 
Russian friends would say, "with quietly awaiting 
the further development of events," and we may rest 
assured that such further development of events, how- 
ever long deferred, will take the form of renewed 
advances to Great Britain. When an offer is made 
which recognises the principle of equal powers of 
construction, management, and control, then will 
come the time for Great Britain to take up that 
share in the promotion of the Baghdad railway 
which, I have not the slightest doubt, is destined 
to be hers. 

It may be well before concluding this chapter to 
explain the position at the present moment. Affairs 
have advanced to the extent that a new company has 
been created, with the title of the " Imperial Ottoman 
Baghdad Railway Company," and an amended form 
of the convention of January 1902 concluded (March 
5, 1903). An arrangement, which may be regarded 
as temporary, has been arrived at by which France 



and Germany are each responsible for 40 per cent 
of the capital sum, in order that the first section of 
the extension from Konia may be embarked upon. 
This section of 200 kilometres, from Konia to the 
village of Bulgurlu, five miles beyond Eregli, is now 
in process of construction. By the middle of March 
the railhead had reached a point 50 kilometres beyond 
Eregli, and was advancing at the rate of a kilometre 
a-day ; and the whole distance is likely to see com- 
pletion by September of the present year. According 
to Consul Waugh, the company receives bonds from 
the Turkish Government to the amount of 54,000,000 
francs, bearing interest at 4 per cent, with a sinking 
fund, which will extinguish the loan in ninety-eight 
years, the term of the concession of the railway, in 
guarantee of the cost of construction of this section. 
He further adds, in his report of the trade of Con- 
stantinople and district for 1903, that " failing sufficient 
surplus from the receipts of the line, the service of 
the loan, which is equivalent to a kilometric guarantee 
of 11,000 francs, is to be met by an annual charge of 
£106,000 on certain tithe revenues.'' 

So the first section will be built without any diffi- 
culty, and, moreover, under the above-mentioned 
arrangement, the company expect to reimburse them- 
selves for all expenses contracted up to the present 
time, so that with the completion of the line to the 
edge of the Taurus Mountains, the company will be 
in a position to start anew with a clean slate. Whether 
any further progress will be made under existing 
circumstances is open to doubt, for the difficult and 
expensive section through the Taurus Mountains looms 
large in the foreground, and I am inclined to think 
that if further progress is made it will be in connection 
with a section in the vicinity of Aleppo. It might 



appear that the stipulation that the line is to be 
constructed in eight years would necessitate its con- 
tinuation without delay ; but it must be remembered 
that the convention has been drawn up by wily Ger- 
mans, who knew perfectly well what they were about. 
This stipulation is, in the first place, dependent on the 
punctual fulfilment by the Government of its financial 
obligations towards the concessionaire; and, secondly, 
is subject to delays arising from force majeure, and the 
definition given of force majeure is a curious one : 
" Seront egalement consideres comme cas de force 
majeure une guerre entre Puissances Europeennes, 
ainsi qu'un changement capital dans la situation 
financiere de V Allemagne, de VAngleterre ou de la 
France." The convention abounds with curious pro- 
visions of a similar nature, safeguarding the con- 
cessionaire, and it is perfectly easy, as a friend of 
mine remarked, to drive a carriage-and-pair through 
it anywhere. 

Such in brief is the Baghdad railway question. The 
review which I have given of it makes no pretension 
to being exhaustive, but space does not admit of a 
more detailed account. The objects which I have kept 
more especially in view have been, firstly, to point out 
that the country through which such a railway will 
pass cannot fail in the future — though that future 
may be a distant one — to benefit enormously by its 
construction, from the point of view both of internal 
development and of expansion of trade ; secondly, to 
explain the position of Great Britain with regard to 
it ; and, lastly, to give a warning to any one who takes 
any interest in the question against being led astray 
from the real issues at stake by the prejudiced utter- 
ances of Germanophobe orators, or the irresponsible 
ebullitions of a Germanophobe press. 


" Clime of the unforgotten brave ! 
"Whose land from plain to mountain cave 
Was freedom's home or glory's grave 
Shrine of the mighty ! Can it be 
That this is all remains of thee ? " 

— Byron. 



Persian characteristics — Methods of travel in Persia — Interesting monu- 
ments of Western Persia — Nature of country on the Turkish border — 
The legends of Shirin — Man walled up alive — The Darcy concession — 
A strange dinner-party — The ascent to the Persian highlands — A late 
winter — Reach Kermanshah — Strategic position of — Population — 
Persian amenities ! — The nakarreh khaneh — The rock sculptures of 
Bostan — Description of — Inscriptions — Disfigurement of panels — 
Opinion of the late Shah concerning — Other remains. 

''The springs of the Teams yield the best and finest 
water of all rivers ; and a man, the best and finest of 
all men, came to them, Darius, son of Hystaspes, King 
of the Persians and of the whole continent." Thus 
Darius — at least so says Herodotus, though we are all 
of course entitled to our own opinion as to how far 
Herodotus wrote history and how far story. I have 
recalled the above, because the trait which prompted 
a Persian 2400 years ago to cause such an inscription 
to be chiselled on stone is so palpable in a very large 
number of the dwellers in that country to-day. I was 
once discussing various episodes in the history of Anglo- 
Persian relations in the past with a gentleman in a 
position of authority, and I happened to remark that I 
hoped if ever England and Persia were again involved 
in war, that it would be side by side that their soldiers 
would be fighting, and not in opposition as once before. 
" Yes, indeed," replied my friend, '' you have good reason 



for hoping so, for my men here are certainly the equal 
of ten Europeans " ! Without seeing the said men you 
could not enjoy the full force of the remark. The noble 
bearer of the Garter to his Majesty the Shah, who was 
saluted with a broken table-leg on passing one of the 
State sentries on guard, would appreciate it. Another 
historian has handed it down that the Persians of his 
day were taught to ride, to shoot, and to speak the 
truth. Not all these characteristics have withstood 
the test of time. I came to an agreement with a 
Persian muleteer to supply me with transport, and 
personally to conduct me as far as Teheran. The day 
fixed for departure came and with it the mule-man, 
who begged me to proceed a short day's journey with- 
out him as he had business in the town ; and with an 
assurance that he would overtake us on the morrow, he 
bade us God - speed. That was the last I ever saw 
of my Persian friend, which is an example of what I 

But, for the most part, as far as travelling in Per- 
sia goes, it might still be the days of the historian 
of Halicarnassus. You are in the East unredeemed 
and unregenerate. There are not many parts of the 
country, for instance, in which you can expect to make 
a journey corresponding to that, say, from Edinburgh to 
London in much less than a month, and then only at 
an expenditure of much labour and forethought. On 
the post-roads you may travel fast — fast, that is, for 
Persia, and may cover as much as from 90 to 100 
miles in a day if you reduce your baggage to a minimum, 
and can coax your jaded spirit and weary limbs to 
resign themselves to the tender mercies of the Persian 
post-horse for so long. But the number of post-roads 
is limited, and where there is no post-road, or in the 
event of your having more worldly goods than can 



be conveniently strapped on to a galloping pony, you 
must travel as the patriarchs of old, with the immemorial 
camel or the hard -worked baggage -mule. It can of 
course be claimed as an advantage that travelling thus 
one sees far more of the country than would be possible 
otherwise ; and the country I was about to travel 
through was of exceptional interest, whether looked at 
from the point of view of the lover of strange records 
from the past, or from that of the speculator as to the 
political possibilities of the future. In the magnificent 
rock sculptures near Kermanshah the lover of the 
antique will find ample reward for his journey ; while 
twenty miles farther on, high up on the precipitous 
rock-cliffs of Piru, stand inscribed the imperishable 
records of Darius, which proclaim to the world to-day, 
as confidently as when first cut upon the face of the 
rock 2400 years ago, the achievements of one of the 
mightiest monarchs of the past. The more practical 
mind, bent on inquiry into trade and commercial re- 
turns, will find ample material to occupy attention, 
while an added interest is to be found in the fact that 
here lies the most probable line of a Trans-continental 
railway which some of us may yet live to see. 

Between Baghdad and the Persian frontier there is 
little that calls for remark. You travel for ninety miles 
across the level plain of Chaldsea, crossing only three 
insignificant ridges as you draw towards the frontier. 
Round Baghdad is displayed a panorama which is 
mournful and irretrievably monotonous — one, that is to 
say, with which the traveller in the East is likely to 
become painfully familiar. Dry, dusty, drab -coloured 
desert is the only description that can be given of the 
country that stretches eastward from Baghdad, though 
desert only because uncultivated. It would probably 
be difficult to find soil that would give better value in 



return for water and a modicum of labour. Presently 
the palm-girt banks of the Diala rise uncertainly on the 
horizon, and after crossing the river by a bridge of 
boats your way lies through a zone of partial cultivation 
which, thanks to the proximity of the river, extends up 
to the frontier. The small towns of Yakubieh, Shah- 
raban, Kizil Robat, and Khanikin, all buried in palm- 
trees, afford you shelter for the night, where solemn, 
long - legged storks occupy every house - roof, cutting 
quaint figures as they stand motionless with one leg 
tucked up, sharply silhouetted against the golden back- 
ground of the western sky. 

By the time you reach Khanikin you have discovered 
several errors in the guide-book ; but let me not be 
hypercritical, for after all the wonderful thing is that 
there should be a guide-book at all. 

After crossing the frontier, which you recognise by a 
small round tower, the country becomes broken with 
low hills, which culminate in the rugged peaks and 
savage mountain gorges of Kurdistan. On the right 
bank of the Hulvan, prettily situated on a steep hill- 
side, stands Kasr-i-Shirin, the first town encountered 
in Persia, and likewise the first place of any interest on 
the road from Baghdad, for close by are the substantial 
remains of the palace built by the monarch Khosroe 
for his beautiful bride Shirin, whose personality is 
enshrouded in a veil of the wildest romance. The story 
of the great love of Ferhad for the peerless Shirin, of 
the colossal works which he undertook as the price of 
her hand, of his tragic self-destruction on hearing a 
false tale of her death, is one with which that quaint 
enigma, the story-teller of Asia, knows full well he can 
still set a cord trembling through the passionate pulses 
of the East. One of the buildings still standing is 
undoubtedly a fire temple, while the remains of a vast 



aqueduct, " and of troughs and stone pipes by which 
water was brought into the palace and city from a 
distance of fifteen miles, are still traceable among the 
desolations." ^ This was said to have been one of the 
works of Ferhad for Shirin. Excavation might be well 
repaid here, for I heard of a native having dug up a 
small gold statue ten or twelve years ago. It is per- 
haps needless to add that local officialdom found it 
incumbent on it to take charge of the said golden 
statuette ! 

Beyond these relics of the past I found another 
monument of an entirely different description and of 
quite recent construction, having been erected, in fact, 
only a few weeks before. This consists of a small oval- 
shaped building of brick and plaster, which is of no 
particular attraction of itself, and might even pass 
unnoticed by a casual observer. There is, however, a 
tale attached, a tale which was related to me in grue- 
some detail, which lost nothing in the telling by an 
eye-witness of the scene. For the odd oval -shaped 
building, which assumed a ghastly significance as the 
horrid details were poured forth, was nothing less than 
a cruel shroud wound slowly round a living criminal, 
while death still held aloof, mocking his victim with the 
unspeakable horror of his slow approach. Incredible 
though it may seem, the appalling custom of walling a 
man up alive is still practised in the twentieth century ! 
The victim — he had stolen a bale of cotton — was strong, 
his struggles were fierce, the operation long-drawn-out, 
and the appreciation of the crowded onlookers great in 
proportion. The builders found their task no easy one, 
even though their victim was bound, and the order was 
finally given to reduce his power of resistance. The 

^ I quote Mrs Bishop here, because I did not observe the " troughs and 
stone pipes myself. See her ' Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan.' 



only weapon handy was a blunt butcher's knife, the 
executioner was intoxicated, and the ghastly terror of 
that final scene beyond belief Let me not dwell upon 
the revolting details. Suffice it that the monument is 
there — a timely warning to all would-be malefactors. 

Within a dozen miles of Kasr-i-Shirin an experi- 
mental shaft was being sunk in search of oil. When 
one thinks of the forest of derricks and feverish activity 
of Baku, the single shed and engine here seems a small 
affair. Nevertheless, it may be the beginning of an 
important business. That oil exists in many parts of 
Southern Persia is well known, and it is a matter for 
congratulation that a concession of such vast possibilities 
has fallen into British hands. The concession obtained 
from the Shah by Mr Darcy is for sixty years, dating 
from 1902, and includes the whole of the south of 
Persia. I rode out one morning, — passing on the way 
the village of Azziz Khan, a monster of iniquity who 
had lately shot his own nephew under circumstances 
of the greatest treachery, and farther on a group of 
villages, all in process of reconstruction after being 
burnt in a recent inter- tribal engagement, — and spent 
a day at the hospitable camp of the engineer in charge. 
Oil had not then been struck, — the borer reached a 
depth of 800 feet the morning I was there, — though all 
the indications of its presence were observed.^ Galatian 
mechanics were at the head of gangs of Persian drillers 
from Baku, while the natives were being made use of as 
far as their incapacity for skilled labour would allow, in 
order to comply with the provision of the concession 
which demands the employment of Persian subjects. 

1 Early in the present year (1904) one of the borings began to spout, 
and oil was sent to England as a sample. The presence of oil in satisfac- 
tory quantity having thus been proved, exploration was embarked upon 
farther south, and additional progress may no doubt shortly be looked for. 



If it may be permitted to one who has no expert 
knowledge to make a criticism, it is that the site 
selected does not appear to be a particularly happy one 
to have chosen for a trial shaft. To begin with, it is 
unpleasantly close to an extremely nebulous Turko- 
Persian border, at a point where the promoters of the 
Baghdad railway have mineral rights for a distance of 
20 kilometres on either side of their line. But even 
supposing there is no possibility of future friction on 
these grounds, how is the oil, when it is found, to be 
conveyed to the coast ? The only transport is that of 
animals until Baghdad is reached, and if, as is sug- 
gested, a pipe be laid, it will have to pass through 500 
miles of extremely mountainous country, a costly under- 
taking in itself, which will be rendered infinitely more 
so by the necessity which will inevitably arise of bribing 
the various predatory tribes through whose dominions 
it must pass. If, as is said, the oil -field extends for 
-300 miles and touches Shushter and Dizful, it is natural 
to wonder why a trial venture was not made there — the 
-oil found at Shushter is so pure that it is used by the 
natives without refining — since the excellent port of 
Mohammerah is within such easy reach. It is to be sup- 
posed, however, that those whose business it is know 
best, and the enterprise is in any case one which every 
Englishman will wish a hearty success. 

In looking over my notes on Kasr-i-Shirin I find it 
put down that I attended a dinner-party there. There 
is nothing very remarkable about going to a dinner- 
party in an ordinary way, but this one was something 
out of the common. Mine host was a Kurdish chief. 
Shir Khan by name, and governor of the district. He 
it was under whose superintendence the immuration 
already mentioned took place. Out of courtesy to me 
v^e dined at a table, a concession which I appreciated 




all the more when he informed my interpreter con 
fidentially that he found the position — i.e., seated o 
a chair — insufferably uncomfortable. After imbibin 
innumerable cups of tea and coffee between 6 p.m. an 
8 P.M., a cloth was laid, and large flat slabs of brea 
spread all round, a space being left in the centre for 
dishes. Bowls of pilao and dishes of mutton were then 
placed in the middle, and when we had each been given 
a plate, spatchcocked fowls were brought in on skewers, 
pulled off, and placed on the table in front of us. 
Knives and forks were conspicuous by their absence, 
but at the invitation of our host to set to, a dozen 
hands were plunged into the rice — rather a greasy 
performance, since it was cooked in butter — and dis-' 
membered the fowls which lay scattered about on the 
table. We went ahead merrily, stufiing handfuls of 
meat and rice into our mouths until hunger was 
appeased and thirst satisfied with the goats' milk 
which formed the staple drink, when a servant came 
round and poured water over our hands from a brazen 
ewer. That brought the meal to an end. Simple but 
effective was my reflection after it was finished. 
Personally I felt that I was clumsy, from being un- 
used to eating everything with my fingers, I suppose ; 
but for those accustomed to it, it appears possible to- 
dispose of a maximum of food in a minimum of time — 
if I may judge by the performances of my fellow-guests, 
at least ! 

After leaving Kasr - i - Shirin the track, which is 
abominably stony, passes through the filthy little 
village of Sar - i - Pul, identified with the Halah of 
2 Kings xvii. 6, up a broad valley for a short distance, 
through a natural cleft in an abrupt limestone ridge, 
said to contain the tomb of David, and along another 
valley, at the extremity of which rise the perpendicular 



walls of rock which constitute the historic Zagros 
Gates. The ascent is made by a road which zigzags 
backwards and forwards up the steep mountain-side, 
and before reaching the summit a marble arch is passed 
on the left-hand side, connected in the popular mind 
with the story of Ferhad and Shirin, but said by 
Layard to be Greek or Roman. ^ 

Having reached the summit you find that you have 
risen by one gigantic step, as it were, from the lowlands 
of Chaldaea to the highlands of Kurdistan, and I also 
found that I had been incontinently hurried from the 
delightful warmth and sunshine of early spring into 
the gloomy depths of an abnormally late winter. For 
the next four days we ploughed laboriously through a 
sea of mud and slush underfoot, while rain, wind, hail, 
and snow raged without ceasing overhead. It was 
consequently with feelings of intense satisfaction that 
I marched into Kermanshah on the 11th March, to be 
welcomed and hospitably entertained by Mr H. Rabino, 
whom I found in charge of the Kermanshah branch of 
the Imperial Bank of Persia, opened here just a year 

Yarahan IV., at one time Governor of Kerman, and 
hence styled Kerman Shah, had an eye to the strategic 
advantages of the site when he chose the position now 
occupied by the town which bears his name. Situated 
midway between Teheran, Tabriz, Ispahan, and Baghdad, 
with highways from all of these places meeting at a 
common centre, its importance as a strategic position 
is assured. Being the first town encountered on the 
Baghdad-Teheran trade route, all goods must necessarily 
enter it before they are distributed to the various towns 

^ " At about two-thirds of the ascent there is a small square building of 
large dressed blocks of white marble, consisting of a deep-vaulted recess, 
which is Greek or Koman." — Early Adventures, vol. i. p. 220. 



to which they are destined, hence its additional im- 
portance as a commercial centre. The usual discrepancy ^ 
is of course found in the various estimates of its popula- 
tion. The province of which it is the capital, and which 
bears the same name, is said to have a total population 
of from 300,000 to 350,000, and the town itself is prob- 
ably responsible for about 50,000. In Lord Curzon's 
* Persia ' it is put at 20,000, while Mrs Bishop, writing 
about the same time, gives 25,000. The information 
from the three different sources from which I sought to 
ascertain the approximate figure was of doubtful value,^ 
as may be judged by the results : (l) 100,000 (Turkish 
Consul); (2) 60,000 (Mr H. Rabino) ; (3) 40,000- 
50,000 (Baron Weydel, chief of the customs of Western 
Persia). The bazaars are fairly large and well stocked 
with goods from Europe, though of the whole bulk of 
the trade which passes through only a small proportion 
remains in the city. 

At one end of the town is an open space known as 
the gun square, planted with trees, some of which 
could tell unpleasant tales. Two poplars growing 
close together immediately outside the bank premises 
had played the part of an extemporary scaffold 
three years before. The criminal, suspended upside- 
down, with one leg fastened to each tree trunk, was 
slowly cut open with a pair of scissors ! This was in 
the days of the Ala-ed-Dowleh, since promoted to the 
governorship of Farz, who must be of similar stamp to 
the genial governor of Arabistan, who, on hearing that 
the British Minister had lost some saddles in his 
district, hastened to assure him that there was no 
cause for annoyance, since in the event of the saddles 
not being immediately restored, the skins of the villagers 
would make excellent substitutes ! I was only in the 
town a few days, but felt I was lucky not to witness 




any atrocity. My host, while reposing on his balcony, 
had witnessed a man deprived of his ears and nose and 
then led round the bazaar as a beauty show only a 
short time before. 

The town is the seat of a royal governor, a fact of 
which I was constantly reminded, for my room was 
immediately under the nakarreh Mianeh, or drum- 
tower, and every evening at sunset my ears were 
deafened by a wild fanfaronade, while 

" For leagues and leagues around, 
The brazen sound 
Rolled through the stillness of departing day, 
Like thunder far away." ^ 

To leave Kermanshah without saying something 
about the famous rock-sculptures of Bostan would be 
as unnatural as to leave Moscow without seeing the 
Kremlin. Four miles from the city rises the perpen- 
dicular rock face in which are hewn the arched recesses 
known as the Tak-i-Bostan. Writers have laboured to 
show that the name is Tak-i-Bostan or arch of the 
garden ; but I believe this conclusion, though ingenious, 
is wrong, and that the place is not necessarily named 
after the gardens in the vicinity, but is in reality Tak- 
i-Yastam, which is the reading found in the Persian 
manuscripts. Immediately in front of the rock are 
two tanks of water surrounded by trees, and to the 
right as you face it an ingeniously constructed villa, 
the property of the late Vekil-i-Dowleh, who held the 
office of British agent. The largest and most modern 
of the two arches — the third set of sculptures consists 
of a panel and is not surmounted by an arch — has a 
height of 30 feet, and a breadth and depth of 24 and 
22 feet respectively. On the right-hand side there is 

^ Robert Southey. 



a large panel representing a stag-hunt, while a corre- 
sponding scene on the left represents a boar-hunt. The 
back is occupied by two panels, one above the other, 
the upper showing Khosroe Parviz (590-628 a.d.) in 
the centre, with Shirin and the Emperor Mauritius on 
either hand. This is the generally accepted theory, 
though it must also be said that there is another which 
assigns a mythical character to all three figures. The 
lower panel is occupied by a gigantic figure of Khosroe 
Parviz on horseback. The second arch, 17 feet high, 
19 feet wide, and 11 feet deep, contains a panel on which 
are sculptured the figures of Shapur II. (310-379 a.d.) 
and Shapur III. (385-390 a.d.), with inscriptions in 
Pehlevi on either side which leave no room for ingenious 
conjecture. Here it is set down unmistakably who the 
figures are, the inscription on the left reading : Image 
of the worshipper of Mazda, the king Shapur, king of 
kings, of Iran and Aniran, whose origin is from the 
gods, the son of the worshipper of Mazda, the king 
Shapur, king of kings, of Iran and Aniran, whose origin 
is from the gods, the grandson of the king Horamazda, 
king of kings" — and that on the right: "This is the 
image of the worshipper of Mazda, the king Shapur, 
king of kings, of Iran and Aniran, whose origin is from 
the gods, the son of the worshipper of Mazda, the king 
Horamazda, king of kings, of Iran and Aniran, whose 
origin is from the gods, the grandson of Narcis, king 
of kings." 

The third set of sculptures on the right is the most 
ancient of the three, and represents Shapur I. (241-273 
A.D.) being invested with half the kingdom by Ardeshir, 
founder of the Sassanian dynasty (211-241 a.d.) At 
one side of the panel is a representation of the god 
Ormuz, while a figure lying prostrate beneath Shapur 
and Ardeshir is variously described as Artabanus, the 



last of the Parthian monarchs, and the Emperor 

The carving in the largest of the arches is excellent, 
and in many parts well preserved ; but the whole 
effect is marred, firstly, by a painted sculpture of one 
Mohammed Ali Mirza, Dowlet Shah (son of Fath All 
Shah), sitting in a golden chair, with his son Heshmet- 
ed-Dowleh in front, and another son, Emad-ed-Dowleh, 
behind, which his chief eunuch, Agha Ghani, caused to 
be executed above the boar-hunt ; and, secondly, by an 
extraordinary vulgarity which has led innumerable 
travellers to inscribe their own unimportant names all 
over the place. It is absolutely nauseating, while look- 
ing at the excellent carving in the panel representing 
the stag-hunt, to find your eye suddenly arrested by 
the name Polacco chiselled deep in large letters in the 
very middle of the scene ! One wonders whether Mr 
Polacco really is under the illusion that his name is of 
such vast interest to posterity that it must be inscribed 
among the finest rock - sculptures extant in Persia ! 
Among other names I remember Williams and Barker ; 
but these, it must be admitted, are but specimens of 
an enormous number of similar disfigurements. The 
late Nasr-ed-Din Shah was much disgusted with the 
works of these vandals, as is attested by the following 
passages culled from his Majesty's diary of his expedi- 
tion to Kerbela, 1870-1871 : "Above this panel Agha 
Ghani, a native of Talish, Gilan, chief eunuch of 
Mohammed Ali Mirza, took the trouble of having an 
image of the late prince sitting on a throne, and that 
of Heshmet-ed-Dowleh, his son, and that of another of 
his younger sons, sculptured on the stone. Ghani him- 
self, with his despiseable face, is standing in front of the 
prince. It is so badly and coarsely done that he has 
really spoiled the arch. It was so badly sculptured 



that they had to paint it with various colours. Really 
it has spoiled the arch." There is likewise something 
pathetic in the plaint which occurs farther on : *^ The 
inscriptions of people on the rock here have not left a 
single place free." 

Two carved stone capitals, or possibly fire-altars, and 
the upper portion of an enormous stone figure, have 
been set up on the far side of one of the tanks. I 
have seen it suggested that this figure fell from a plat- 
form above the arches, where stone stumps supposed 
to be the feet are still visible. I think this is quite 
out of the question, since the stone stumps, to begin 
with, are of an absolutely different coloured stone to 
the statue, and bear no resemblance to feet. They 
were probably used to secure the scaffolding at the 
time the sculptures were executed. The statue has 
been invested with a certain magic power by the hill 
tribes, who regard it as a sort of panacea for every ill. 
To quote his Majesty's diary once more : " It is said 
that the Lur has this statue in veneration, and when 
they suffer from chills, fever, and other ailments they 
place at the foot of the statue peas and raisins and 
other offerings. Most of the time they go away un- 
happy. They are foolish and stupid men." 

To the right of the sculptures are two small flights 
of steps cut out of the rock, which lead on to a sort 
of platform above. Before leaving let me correct the 
impression which I received when I read of them as a 
" flight of several hundreds of steps " ! Niches would 
be a more correct term, and the two short flights are 
jointly possessed of precisely 102. A far more accurate 
idea is gained from the remark of his late Majesty : 
''But to go up these steps is not free of danger!" 





Remains at Kangavar — The inscriptions at Bisitun — Deciphered by Sir H. 
Rawlinson — Description of the tablet above the inscriptions — Ker 
Porter's surmise — Names and identities — Another inscription — The 
country between Kermanshah and Hamadan — Hamadan— Population 
— Trade — The tombs of Esther and Mordecai — The tomb of Avi- 
cenna — A beautiful mosque — The Ganjnameh — A stone lion — The key 
to the decipherment of the cuneiform alphabet — Gold — The question 
of the site of Ecbatana of Deioces — The debauches of Alexander the 
Great — The decay of Hamadan — The country between Hamadan and 
Teheran — Execrable weather — Discomforts of travel — Reach Teheran. 

Between Kermanshah and Hamadan, the next town 
of importance, there is a good deal of interest. At 
Kangavar, three days' journey along the road, I noticed 
many remains of ancient buildings, huge square -cut 
stones, and in one place portions of colossal round 
pillars built into a modern mud building, probably 
portions of the temple to Artemis, which is supposed 
to have stood here.^ But all else is overshadowed in 
importance by the world-famed inscriptions of Darius, 
which stand graven in three languages upon a sheer 
and inaccessible rock-face of the mountain Piru. Im- 

1 See Layard's ' Early Adventures ' : " Kangowar is supposed to represent 
the ancient city of Pancobar, where the Assyrian queen (Semiramis) is said 
to have erected a temple to Anaitis or Artemis, and to have established an 
erotic cult in which, if her reputation be not belied, she was amongst the 
most ardent worshippers." — Vol. i. p. 246. 


mediately below is situated the squalid village of 
Bisitun or Behistun, and so sheer and to such a height 
does the rock cliff rise above it, that it is almost with 
a shock that one looks out on waking in the morning 
to see so stupendous a mass seemingly overhanging one. 

The inscriptions, which were first deciphered by Sir 
H. Rawlinson, and record the achievements of Darius's 
reign, are at a height of about 300 feet from the 
ground. I climbed up to within about 30 yards, but 
beyond this found it impossible to proceed without aid. 
Above the inscriptions, which occupy a space of 150 
feet in length by 100 feet in height, is a sculptured 
panel of fourteen figures. On the left are two figures 
standing, then one seated, shown by his superior size 
to be Darius himself, and then nine figures standing, 
chained to one another. These latter represent the 
impostors who led the different revolts in Susiana, 
Babylon, Media, Sagartia, and Margiana. The last 
figure, distinguished from the rest, who are bareheaded, 
by a high cap, is the leader of a Scythian revolt con- 
quered by Darius, while the sculptures were in progress 
of construction. Underneath the foot of Darius is the 
prostrate figure of Pseudo-Smerdis, the Magian usurper, 
and hovering over all is a representation of the god 
Auramazda. In Ker Porter's description of Bisitun I 
find the following : " Should the discoveries of time 
prove my conjecture to be right, this bas-relief must be 
nearly two hundred years older than any which are 
ascribed to Cyrus at Persepolis or Parsargadse." But 
the discoveries of time have failed him, for his con- 
jecture was that the central figure was Shalmanezer, 
and the rest the captive tribes of Israel ! And the 
elaborate reasoning which he gives in support of his 
theory falls to the ground in the light of ascertained 



When one examines the whole carefully with a glass, 
one realises what a wonderful work it is. The labour 
which must have been spent, first in rendering so large 
a space absolutely smooth, and then in engraving the 
gigantic inscription in Persian, Susian, and Assyrian on 
the hard surface of the rock, must have been enormous. 
A coating of some sort of varnish seems to have been 
placed over the whole, which is doubtless responsible 
for the extraordinary state of preservation of the writ- 
ing to this day. After seeing this strange writing on 
the rock and learning the great story which it tells, it 
is easy to agree with the remark of Lord Curzon that 
here stands the most important historical document, 
albeit in stone, next to the Damietta stone, that has 
been discovered and deciphered " in the past century.^ 

A good deal of perplexity has arisen over the ques- 
tion of names and identities. Bisitun is said to mean 
" without pillars," and has also been supposed to be a 
contraction of the ancient Bagistan. I may mention 
that eight or nine miles to the south I noticed remains 
of stone pillars and capitals at a village called Hadgia- 
bad, which might well mark the site of Bagistan of the 
ancients, since the distance of Hadgiabad from Bisitun 
agrees with the distance given by ancient writers of 
Bagistan from the inscriptions. 

To the right altogether of the famous inscriptions is 
another tablet containing some rude and hardly recog- 
nisable equestrian figures, with an inscription declaring 
it to be the work of Gotarzes, the Parthian king (about 
50 A.D.) ; and in the centre of this a space has been 
smoothed at a later date, and an Arabic inscription 
inserted, setting forth the terms on which the revenue 
of the two villages has been assigned to the upkeep of 
the caravanserai. If one may judge by the state of 

^ Persia, vol. i. p. 52. 



preservation of the said caravanserai, the revenue of the 
two villages must be microscopic ! Yet one more relic 
is to be seen in the centre of the village in the form of 
a carved stone capital, or perhaps fire-altar, similar to 
those already mentioned at Kermanshah. 

Little more need be said of the journey from Kerman- 
shah to Hamadan. It takes you through an elevated 
country, along wild valleys and across rugged ridges, 
where the climate even at this time of the year is apt 
to be cold and stormy.^ Five days, or six if you are 
content with moderate marches, will take you from one 
town to the other, the distance, given by the muleteers 
as twenty - six farsakhs, being roughly equivalent to 
rather more than 100 miles." I reached Hamadan on 
the 19th March, to find the surrounding country under 
snow and the town itself a quagmire of filth and slush, 
and I entered into the feelings of Ker Porter, who, 
though not expecting " to see Ecbatana as Alexander 
found it ; neither in the superb ruin in which Timur 
had left it," has yet put on record that when he did 
actually behold it, " it was with the appalled shock of 
seeing a prostrate dead body " ! 

The population is variously computed at from 40,000 
to 80,000, but my host, an Armenian gentleman whose 
hospitality and kindness I shall long remember, af- 
firmed that it was not less than 50,000. In 
* Persia ' Lord Curzon gives it as " not more than 
20,000," but he must have been misinformed, for 
there has certainly not been an increase of 30,000 
in the last decade. There is a colony of from 3000 
to 4000 Jews, and about 50 families of Armenians. 

1 I notice that Layard, travelling here in 1840, found snow on the 
summits in July. "We were now approaching the loftiest part of the 
great range of the Luristan Mountains, and the' highest peaks were 
still covered with snow." — Early Adventures. 



The bazaars are busy and fairly spacious, presenting 
the long covered-in arcades with their many rami- 
fications, familiar to the traveller in the East. Great 
impetus was given to the trade of the town by the 
stifling of the transit trade through Caucasia, which 
has resulted in much of the trade which formerly 
went to Tabriz now reaching Hamadan via Bagh- 
dad. I walked through the greater part of the 
bazaars, where I found Manchester prints and cottons 
everywhere displayed, Russia supplying only about 
10 per cent of such goods at the present time (1903). 
With regard to other goods, however, Russia sup- 
plies the lion's share. Glass ware, crockery, cutlery, 
&c., all come from her, while whereas fifteen years 
ago Russian sugar was unknown in Hamadan, 80 
per cent now bears her trade-mark. I did not see 
a single package of Marseilles sugar in the bazaar. 
The chief article of local manufacture is leather, 
while wine is made from the grapes which grow 
abundantly all round, and has a considerable local 
reputation. With praiseworthy perseverance, but 
quite gratuitously, more than one writer has per- 
sisted in extolling the excellence and widespread 
reputation of the copper ware of Hamadan. As a 
matter of fact there is no copper work in Hamadan, 
or at any rate no more than there is in any other 
Persian town. The only copper - ware repositories 
that I saw were one or two shops in a small side 
bazaar, whose copper goods admittedly all came 
from Kashan. 

The chief objects of interest in the town are the 
tombs of Esther and Mordecai, and of Avicenna 
(Abu ibn Sena), and a beautiful little mosque of 
Seljuk origin ; and through a snowstorm and the 
appalling filth of the narrow streets I ploughed my 



way to see them. I was asked if I did not fin 
them — the streets — the worst I had ever seen, but 
felt obHged to reply that between streets of the 
unredeemed Orient I found it difficult to discrim- 
inate. It is sufficiently obvious that no great degree 
of cleanliness can be postulated for any street tha 
in addition to its own duties, has to fulfil the office 
of main sewer ! And in no part of Persia that I 
have visited have I found any indication that the 
Dea Cloacina finds any place in the national 

The tombs of the Jewish queen and her uncle 
are in a small building close to the Musjid-i-Jama. 
Entering by a low stone door about four feet high, 
one finds oneself in an ante - chamber, from which 
a still smaller door, through which one can just 
squeeze, gives access to the sacred chamber. Here 
in the centre, beneath a domed roof, stand two 
sarcophagi, each made in three parts, one standing 
on the top of the other, of some dark hardwood, 
carved all over with inscriptions in Hebrew. In 
each case the top and smaller part seem to have 
been removed at the time of the Afghan invasion, 
and restored at a later date. I have seen it written 
that the remains of the deceased repose in these 
sarcophagi, but this is incorrect, and the informa- 
tion of the Jewish custodian, to the efiect that they 
were never placed in them, is corroborated by the 
epitaph on that of Mordecai : " Those whose bodies 
are now beneath in this earth, when animated by 
Thy mercy, were great." The italics are mine. 
Beneath the floor of the chamber is a vault, and 
it is beneath this vault that the corpses are sup- 
posed to lie. I was further informed that a lamp 
was kept continually burning. Being an inquisitive 



Briton, I asked to be shown the vault, and after 
a stone in the floor had been raised, I peered down 
into a sepulchral chamber to see a lamp indeed, but 
a lamp in which, mirabile dictu, there flickered no 
ray from the sacred flame ! I suggested that the 
fire should at once be restored, a suggestion which 
the aged custodian agreed must immediately be acted 
upon. At one side of the central chamber is a small 
chancel, recently decorated, beneath which are said 
to repose the bones of a Jewish doctor of some fame, 
and beneath which is likewise said to be a deep 
well into which at one time the bones of deceased 
Jews were cast. 

The other tomb of interest, that of Avicenna, is 
situated in another part of the town, and is marked 
by a small monument of stone, on which is carved the 
name of the man in Turkish, while another rather 
larger tombstone stands beside it in the same small 
domed chamber. The ' Encyclopaedia Britannica ' gives 
utterance to the following extraordinary statement : 
''He [Avicenna] died in June 1037, in his 58th year, 
and was buried among the palm-trees by the Kiblah of 
Hamadan." It is conceivable that there may have been 
palm-trees at Hamadan in the days of Avicenna, though 
if there were they must have passed away very soon 
after the famous physician ; but how a man can be 
buried by the Kiblah of Hamadan is a puzzle which 
I admit I am unable to solve, the Kiblah meaning 
simply the direction of Mecca. 

The mosque which I have mentioned as the other 
object of interest is now roofless. It has a brickwork 
inscription in Kufic round the outside, and the walls 
inside are covered with most beautiful stucco-work in 
gypsum. The design is intricate and involved, but 
seems to be largely floral, much of the ornamentation 



being of the kind known as honeycomb. Beneath the 
floor is an underground chamber in which are several 
tombs. There was at one time a legend that from this 
chamber there was an underground passage to Mecca, 
but a member of the usual crowd which invariably 
collects round any European who happens to stop to 
inspect anything, taking pity, I suppose, on my cred- 
ulity, assured me that this was not the case 1 

Beyond these objects of interest there are two 
tablets with trilingual inscriptions known as Ganj- 
nameh, bearing the names and titles of Darius and 
Xerxes ; nor must I forget to mention an ancient stone 
lion which stands near the Musallah, a mound on the 
outskirts of the town, and is said to have been set up 
by Belinas, a magician, as a talisman against cold, from 
which the city suflers severely. I was unable to visit 
the Ganjnameh myself, since, being situated high up on 
the side of Mount El vend, it was deep under snow ; but 
according to the accounts of others there are two 
square excavations in the face of an enormous block 
of red granite, cut to the depth of a foot, about 5 feet 
in breadth and much the same in height, each tablet 
containing three columns of engraved arrow-headed 
writing — a description which agrees with a photograph 
which I have in my possession. 

Layard describes them as being of special interest, as 
having first afibrded the key to the decipherment of the 
cuneiform writing ; but in this he is incorrect. The 
first clue was given by the inscriptions of Persepolis, 
accurate drawings of which were made by Niebuhr in 
1765, and the first man to discover a method by which 
the inscriptions might be deciphered was the German 
Grotefend, who presented a paper upon the subject to 
the Gottingen Academy in 1802. By comparing the 
inscriptions copied by Niebuhr, he deciphered the names 


of Hystaspes, Darius, and Xerxes. In 1835, after 
correct values had been obtained for rather more than 
a third of the Persian alphabet, as a result of the work 
of Grotefend and his successors, Sir Henry Rawlinson, 
who was ignorant of the details of Grotefend's dis- 
covery, set to work on the inscriptions of Hamadan. 
Thanks to his knowledge of Zend and Pehlevi, cognate 
dialects to the old Persian language, he was rewarded 
with a greater measure of success than had fallen to 
his predecessors in the same field, and after working for 
two years at the inscriptions of Behistun, he forwarded 
in the year 1837 a translation of the first two para- 
graphs to the Royal Asiatic Society, to be followed ten 
years later by the publication of a complete translation 
of the Persian text of the now celebrated inscriptions 
to which I have already referred. 

The land all round the town is frequently washed for 
gold, which is now found chiefly in the form of gold- 
dust. Gold ear-rings and ornaments have also come to 
light in the process, and some of the older inhabitants 
have found bowls containing coins when digging at the 
foundations of their houses, relics no doubt of the days 
when the Ecbatana of the Achaemenian kings stood 
here. A question still to solve is whether the Ecbatana 
of Deioces the Mede, with its seven brilliantly coloured 
circular walls, stood where Hamadan stands now, in 
spite of a reckless statement by Layard that " Hamadan 
is known to occupy the site of Ecbatana, the ancient 
capital of the Medes." Whether this be so or not, it is 
at any rate agreed that here stood the treasure city of 
the Achaemenian kings, and it is likewise certain that 
here Alexander indulged in the most riotous living on 
his return from his conquests in the East. In the midst 
of the wildest scenes of feasting and debauchery Hephaes- 
tion, his favourite general, died. The results of the 




king's anger and grief at this misfortune were terrible. 
To quote the much-travelled baronet once more, He 
did not shed tears but blood ! " Orders were given that 
the physician who had allowed his beloved Hephaestion 
to die should be crucified : all merriment was brought 
to an end, and " that the groans and anguish of multi- 
tudes might accompany his own, he sallied forth at the 
head of a part of his army, attacked a defenceless 
neighbouring district, and put all the inhabitants to 
the sword : this he called sacrificing to Hephaestion's 
ghost ! " In later days Hamadan suffered the usual 
fate of cities which happened to lie in the path of 
Timur, and, as though this was not enough, Agha 
Mohammed swept down upon it to complete the de- 
vastation. As one gazes upon the modern town one 
feels that it has indeed experienced a blow from which 
it has never recovered, and one may even be excused' 
for indorsing the saying that " Hamadan is the most 
hateful of towns ; its children are old men for ugliness, 
and its old men are children for silliness," though it 
may strike one as invidious that such a description 
should be applied to Hamadan in preference to any 
other Persian town. 

From Hamadan the track lies across a succession of 
hills and elevated valleys, which broaden out finally into 
the level dust-coloured plains of Central Persia. The 
weather the whole way was execrable — an almost con- 
tinual blizzard for the first seven days — and the lateness 
of the winter was spoken of on all sides as unusual. 
At Teheran itself snow lay on the ground so late as the 
last week in March, and the villagers all round were 
bewailing the rapidity with which their mud -houses 
were returning to their primary element. One day it 
took us three hours to accomplish four miles in a driving 
snowstorm, while underfoot the mud and slush were 




almost up to the mules' bellies. The consequence was 
they were perpetually falling down, having to be un- 
loaded, picked up again, and reloaded, while we were in 
imminent peril of frost-bite. On another occasion, after 
braving a galling wind from the north all day, we 
reached a small village where I found a room with 
fireplace and chimney that did not smoke — a great 
luxury. The huge wood-fire which I kept burning was, 
however, of little avail, and the thermometer could by 
no means be induced to rise above 30° Fahr. all night. 
There were no windows, but this defect was made up 
for by the door, which when closed did not reach the 
wall on one side by several inches, leaving a gap through 
which the wind shrieked a high-pitched threnody. 
These are the occasions on which one ponders some- 
what regretfully on the discarded comforts of civilisa- 
tion, which appear possessed of attractions unsuspected 
until now. Teheran, however, lay before me, and on 
the last day of March, thirty-three days after setting 
out from Baghdad, I rode into the capital of the Shah. 





Recent improvements at Teheran — The city gates — Days of mourning — 
Interview with the Shah and with the Prime Minister — A visit to the 
palace — A motley collection ! — The picture-gallery — An extraordinary 
ceremony — Religious plays — Nature of the country round the capital. 

Teheran has been so often and so conscientiously 
described that to give any detailed account of it to-day 
would be a quite superfluous waste of time. With the 
exception of the erection of a large barracks for the 
Persian Cossacks, which extend the length of one 
side of a spacious parade-ground, and a considerable 
increase of buildings in the European quarter of the 
town, it would seem that little change has taken place 
since the late Shah, Nasr-ed-Din, bethinking him 
suddenly that " the ' Point of Adoration of the Uni- 
verse ' was framed in a somewhat inadequate setting," 
bade his capital to " burst its bonds and enlarge its 
quarters." ^ There is no immediate fear of the city 
outgrowing the walls which were then erected, and on 
the eastern side of the town I noticed quite a large 
area in the vicinity of the Meshed gate under cultiva- 
tion ! The city gates, of which there are a consider- 
able number at intervals in the walls, are one of the 
features of the town, being ornamented with designs in 

^ Persia. Curzon. 



modern Persian tile-work, but the care with which 
they are closed and barred at night strikes one as 
being a wholly unnecessary precaution, since there is 
absolutely nothing to prevent any one from walking 
across the dry ditch and mud walls — ramparts would 
be a more correct designation — should he feel so in- 
clined ; indeed, I am assured that in places there is no 
difficulty in crossing them on horseback. 

Those in high places seemed generally exhausted — 
especially the Treasury — after the trip to Europe, and 
the fact that I arrived at the beginning of the Ashura, 
the first ten days of religious mourning of the Mohar- 
rem, was responsible for the unwonted quiet which 
brooded over the society of the capital. Under these 
circumstances I appreciated all the more the kindness 
which prompted both the Shah and the prime minister 
to do me the honour of inviting me to an interview. 
The appearance of Mozuffer a Din Shah is now familiar 
to the English public. On the occasion of my visit he 
wore a plain dark uniform with jewelled sword, and 
the national crest in diamonds on the ordinary black 
sheepskin kolah, and spoke at first in Persian through 
an interpreter and then in French when he broached 
the congenial topic of sport. As is his custom, he 
received me standing, in the centre of a small room 
profusely ornamented with the cut-mirror work known 
as aineh kari, at one end of which stands the cele- 
brated jewel globe, ^ while a few Court officials stood 
grouped at a short distance. 

On another occasion I was shown the principal halls 
and chambers of the palace, which contain so extra- 

^ See Lord Curzon's Persia, vol. i. p. 314: "Upon a separate stand 
appears the globe of jewels, which was constructed out of his loose stones 
by the reigning Shah (Nasr-ed-Din) at a cost (exclusive of the gems pro- 
vided by himself) of £320,000. The alleged value, with the stones (75 lb. 
of pure gold, and 51,366 gems, weighing 3656*4 grammes), is £947,000." 



ordinary a collection of objects, ranging from jewellery 
and china of enormous value to oleographs, tooth- 
brushes, and toys ! The greater number of objects of 
real value have been removed to the inner chambers 
of the palace, which are, of course, sacred from the 
strangers gaze; but the so-called peacock throne, 
which has been so ruthlessly torn from its high estate 
by the practical author of * Persia,' stands at one end 
of the great hall, which is a perfect museum for a 
heterogeneous collection of the products of the West. \ 
Its appearance is perhaps rather barbaric than beautiful, 
the great mass of badly cut gems, indifferently set in 
plated gold, giving a somewhat garish effect. A picture- 
gallery is situated in another part of the palace, which 
is as replete with eccentricities as it is with pictures. 
Side by side with really excellent oil-paintings I 
observed an advertisement of Brook's cotton, while 
a little farther along were two cards covered with 
samples of fish-hooks, and yet again was to be seen a 
Madonna rubbing shoulders with doubtful illustrations 
from a French comic paper ! There was one landscape 
which puzzled me for a long time, until it at length 
dawned upon me that it was hung upside-down ! The 
picture itself was perhaps responsible for this slight 
error, and I admit that I have seen daubs to which 
such a mishap might excusably occur in other countries 
besides Persia, though it is not usual to hang them in 
the courts of royalty or the palaces of kings. 

If, as I have already suggested, the month of 
Moharrem is a quiet one at the Persian capital, it is 
nevertheless one which affords the stranger an oppor- 
tunity of witnessing a spectacle which he would look 
for in vain in any other country or even here at any 
other time of the year. For on the last of the ten 
days during which the Persians mourn the death of 



their two prophets, Hassan and Hussein, their grief 
culminates in the ceremony of the hatl or murder. A 
large number of people of the lower classes robe them- 
selves in white, and then, linked arm in arm and 
carrying huge knives, parade the streets calling on 
the names of their prophets, while, urged on by the 
stirring strains of bands of music, they cut and gash 
themselves horribly about the head and face. I watched 
these weird processions for long from a house-roof, 
while the bands played and the cry "Hassan ! Hussein ! " 
rent the air, and the blood flowed till the white robes 
of the maddened fanatics were dyed crimson from 
head to foot. 

It was a nauseating scene in spite of its novelty, 
and aflbrded a graphic illustration of the heights to 
which fanaticism may rise, recalling inevitably the 
old-world custom of the prophets of Baal, who cried 
aloud, and cut themselves, after their manner, with 
knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon 
them." 1 

Mourning is also observed by the performance of 
religious plays known as tazziehs, to one of which I 
was invited. I found it a little difiicult to see, as I 
was placed behind a thick perforated curtain, on account, 
I believe, of the presence of the royal hareem. The 
play must have been of a very touching nature, judging 
from the loud wailing and moaning to which the 
onlookers gave vent ; but the pathos was quite spoilt 
for me when the band suddenly broke into the familiar 
strains of the " Sourir d'Avril ! " This, I imagine, was 
the result of the recent trip to Europe, and I have no 
doubt it was considered to be an excellent funeral 
march ! 

Beyond the city walls the country is bare, brown, 

^ 1 Kings xviii. 28. 



and forbidding, leading one to suppose that the author 
of the Baluchi proverb, " When God created the world, 
Baluchistan was made from the refuse," had not travelled 
as far as the present site of the Persian capital. The 
insignificant tumuli which are all that remain of the 
once glorious city of Rhages, while being doubtless of 
vast interest to the expert, have too little to show to 
attract the casual traveller ; and though the Persian 
wild goat is to be found in the mountains at no great 
distance in sufficient numbers to afford excellent sport 
to the stalker, it is undoubtedly as the headquarters 
of the incalculable intrigue which passes in Persia for 
diplomacy, rather than as a city possessed of any 
material attraction, that Teheran appeals to the visitor. 
It may be well, therefore, if, before leaving the country, 
I devote a few words to reviewing the events which 
formed the chief topics of interest and discussion in the 
political world at the time of my visit. 




PERSIA IN 1903. 

"Tariffs" — Negotiations leading to a revision of the Custom duties — 
Adverse effects upon British trade over-estimated — Present state of 
affairs due to British insouciance in the past — The treaty of Erzerum 
— Provisions of the new tariff — Effect upon Indian trade — Great 
Britain's reply — Events on the Afghan border — The MacMahon 
mission — Russian intrigue — Ways and communications — The situa- 
tion in the capital — The fall of the Prime Minister — A tribute to the 
British Minister. 

On March 4, 1903, I entered Persia. On February 14 
the new Customs tariff had come into force, and 
"tariffs" proved to be an unfailing source of con- 
versation from one end of the kingdom to the other. 
" Tariff reform," in fact, was as undoubtedly the topic 
of the hour in Persia as it came to be nearer home a 
very short time after, though discussion of the subject 
in the two cases was of a widely different nature. For 
in Persia it was an accomplished fact that had to be 
digested — the fact that the neutral markets of the 
world had become the poorer by one. 

The advent of a change in the fiscal arrangements of 
Persia had long been foreshadowed, and when the new 
commercial treaty between Persia and Turkey was con- 
cluded, no obstacle remained to bar the way to such an 
innovation. It must be admitted, however, that on 
this occasion the Persians displayed a wholly unex- 


PERSIA IN 1903. 

pected capacity for holding their tongues pending the 
negotiations, and the commercial convention which was 
concluded between Russia and Persia in November 1901 
remained a profound secret for more than a year. In 
December 1902 the ratifications were exchanged, and 
the British community rudely awakened to the blow 
which they had sustained. For a blow it undoubtedly 
was, though — thanks to the Anglo-Persian Convention 
which was hastily concluded in February 1903 — not of 
the overwhelming nature that those responsible for it 
had originally hoped and intended. 

I have no wish whatsoever to minimise the adverse 
results to British interests of this the latest Russian 
diplomatic coup at Teheran, for no one can deny that 
the tariff has been framed more especially against 
British trade ; but while admitting that we are un- 
doubted losers by the Russo-Persian Convention of 
December 1902, I refuse to attach to it the altogether 
disproportionate significance that the ultra-pessimists 
would, from their utterances, appear to do, or to see in 
this modest triumph of our rivals the presaged collapse 
of British empire in Asia. 

The episode may yet be productive of good if we are 
only willing to learn by experience and to observe, 
before a worse thing befall us, the inevitable results of 
a policy of drift. For it is thanks only to our own 
want of foresight in the past that British interests lay 
open to any such attack. At the conclusion of the 
Anglo-Persian war an article concerning our commercial 
relations was inserted in the treaty of peace concluded 
at Paris in 1857, which article read as follows: "The 
high contracting parties engage that, in the establish- 
ment and recognition of Consuls-General, Consuls, Vice- 
Consuls, and Consular Agents, each shall be placed in 
the dominions of the other on the footing of the most 



favoured nation ; and that the treatment of their 
respective subjects and their trade shall also, in every 
respect, be placed on the footing of the treatment of the 
subjects and commerce of the most favoured nation." 
And the most favoured nation under the treaty of 
Turkomanchai was Russia, our bitterest rival in the 
East ! Why, it is natural to ask, was no specific 
agreement come to under the aforesaid treaty of Paris ? 

If we relied upon Turkey, who, after Russia had 
agreed to the Customs duties being raised, would, under 
the treaty of Erzerum, have been the most favoured 
nation, we relied upon a broken reed ; at least, the 
result proves that if British influence was brought 
to bear at Constantinople with a view to preserving 
the treaty of Erzerum, it was not strong enough to 
prevail against pressure from the North. It is always 
well to bear in mind when dealing with Turkey that 
there is still a balance of something like £T24,000,000 
owing to Russia on account of indemnity for war ! The 
only other country that might possibly have been put 
forward as having a commercial treaty with Persia that 
would hold good was Egypt ; but that Egypt, which 
had been granted the right of concluding commercial 
treaties with foreign Powers by a firman issued on 
June 8, 1873, could be looked upon as an independent 
party to the treaty of Erzerum was evidently not 

So the way was clear, and the tariff was brought in. 
Its provisions are many and intricate, and any enumera- 
tion of the different charges on the various objects of 
import and export, and the different methods of apply- 
ing them, would fill many pages, and serve only to 
weary any one not intimately concerned with the trade 
of Persia. Imports are divided into no less than 
forty-two general headings, each one of which is sub- 


PERSIA IN 1903. 


divided into innumerable minor classifications. The 
heading matieres textiles, for instance, includes no less 
than twenty-six subdivisions, the majority of which 
require a paragraph of description, and some of which 
are themselves divided up again into lesser groupings. 
For a large number of imported articles there is a fixed 
charge by weight, the recognised unit for this purpose 
being the batman of Tabriz ( = 640 Persian miskals, 
7 '27 Russian pounds, 2 French kilogrammes 970 
grammes, 6*49 English pounds), while there is a new 
tariff in place of the old 5 per cent for such goods as 
are still charged ad valorem. Most Manchester goods, 
such as cottons, calicoes, shirtings, &c., are charged 
according to weight, the duty working out at from 
4 to 10 per cent according to quality. It is obvious 
that under such a system the more expensive class 
of goods is greatly favoured, and therein is visible the 
part that was played by Russian influence in the com- 
pilation of the tariff, for it is the more expensive goods 
that form the bulk of Russian imports. The cheaper 
goods, which come almost exclusively from Manchester, 
are of course at a proportionate disadvantage. Again, 
the duty on sugar, which under a liberal system of 
bounties floods the Persian market from Russia, works 
out at about 2J per cent, or rather less than half that 
in vogue in the past, whereas the duty on tea, which 
comes chiefly from India, has been increased by 95 per 
cent ; spices, another Indian staple, are charged at 
an exorbitant rate, and the duty of 10 krans per hat- 
man on indigo is almost prohibitive. One might almost 
suppose that these figures had been drawn up with the 
deliberate object of stifling the Nushki-Sistan trade- 
route, which seems to have become an absolute night- 
mare to Russian politicians. 

The following table of the imports and exports 



between Persia and England and Persia and India by 
the Baghdad-Kermanshah route between January 1902 
and January 1903 shows the duty paid according to the 
old arrangement and the amount that would have had 
to be paid under the new tariff : — 


Where from. 

Vahie in 

old tariff. 

new tariff. 

Cotton goods — 


Woollen goods 
Silk goods 

Sewing thread, cotton . 

Woollen thread 

Iron and steel bars 
Tin sheets . 
Zinc bars . 
Copper bars 
Worked iron and steel 

Tea ... . 

Indigo • . . • 

Spices and pepper . 






















Gum, native . 
Grain and seeds 
Wheat .... 
Wool, raw 

Opium .... 
Carpets .... 



England and Hongkong 
England, America, and 






no duty 
no duty 

no duty 




From the above table it will be seen that the net 
increase to the Persian Government, on trade valued 
roughly at £750,000, would have been 1,434,222 krans, 
or £28,684, of which £15,959 would have been levied 
on a trade of £700,000 with England, and £12,725 on 
a trade of £50,000 with India. The comparison is 


PERSIA IN 1903. 

significant, and shows the extent to which India suffers 
under the new arrangement. 

Such in brief is the new tariff as it exists, and it is 
fortunate that British diplomacy was successful in ex- 
tracting a pledge from the Persian Government that it 
should go no further. For it was common property in 
Teheran that the tariff of 1903 was put forward ten- 
tatively — a thin edge of the wedge — and that ere long 
further changes were to have been made which could 
have proved nothing less than disastrous to British 
trade. The convention which was drawn up and signed 
by Sir Arthur Hardinge on behalf of Great Britain, and 
M. Naus on behalf of Persia, February 9, 1903, has 
at least prevented the evil from spreading, and has 
locked the stable - door upon what is still left. The 
duties levied upon British goods, in common with those 
of other nations, can in the case of Great Britain be 
raised in the future only with her consent ; while in the 
event of any other country at any time securing ad- 
vantageous treatment she will be entitled, in virtue of 
the most favoured nation clause, to claim equal rights. 

But Teheran was by no means the only scene of 
political activity during the opening months of 1903. 
Away to the east, on the nebulous borders of Afghan- 
istan, the Indian Government were displaying an activ- 
ity which left no room for doubt as to the part which 
they considered themselves entitled to play in those 
parts of Persia which abut upon the outposts of their 
empire. The boundary defined under such difficulties 
by the Commission of 1872, under the able direction of 
Sir F. Goldsmid, which seems to have possessed the 
distinction of displeasing the Persians only a degree 
less than it did the Afghans, had ceased to constitute a 
practical line of division, as was perhaps only to be 
expected when so unstable a quantity as the river 



Helmund formed so important a part of it. So far 
back as the end of 1900, when I was myself in Sistan, 
both Afghans and Persians were indulging in hostile 
incursions into the disputed tracts of the rapidly dis- 
solving border, which led to highly strained relations, if 
not, indeed, to actual bloodshed; and early in 1903 a 
Commission under Colonel MacMahon, who had dis- 
tinguished himself in defining the Afghan - Baluch 
boundary in 1896, proceeded from India, via the Hel- 
mund, accompanied by an escort and a large number of 
followers, to meet the Persian Commissioner on the 
scene of actual dispute. 

The susceptibilities of the Russians were of course 
grievously outraged, and it was whispered that when 
they found themselves unable to adduce any adequate 
reason for being represented upon the Commission them- 
selves, the Persian delegate received telegraphic instruc- 
tions to fall ill, and to summon to his aid a Russian doctor 
residing at the Russian consulate at Nasratabad ! The 
immediate result was that a deadlock ensued, and the 
Persian Government, realising that the situation had 
become absurd, issued instructions for the recovery of 
their commissioner once more. Like most things in 
Persia, the operations have proceeded — if indeed such 
a word may be used — with appropriate dignity and 
delay ; and the summer of 1904 has come round, to find 
the Commission still biding in Sistan, in thorough en- 
joyment, no doubt, of the attractions of that place as 
provided by the inconceivable variety of the insect 
world which it displays and the distracting persistency 
of the "wind of 120 days.'' 

In other parts of the kingdom ways and communica- 
tions seemed to be attracting some attention — not before 
it was needed, would be an appropriate comment. The 
difficulties between Messrs Lynch and the Bakhtiari 


PERSIA IN 1903. 

chiefs, with regard to the payment for the new Ahwaz- 
Ispahan road, were amicably settled, and a " Persian 
road company," recently formed in London, gave evid- 
ence of an intention to do something on the Teheran- 
Kum road, some day to be prolonged to Ispahan and 
Shushter, the concession for which was taken over from 
the original holders, the directors of the Imperial Bank. 
In another direction the road question was being taken 
up by concessionaires from the north, and Russian 
engineers appeared at Tabriz, in connection presumably 
with a road from Julfa to Kazvin. Road concessions 
here include ways from Kazvin as their centre to 
Teheran, Hamadan, and to Julfa on the frontier, the 
latter having the prospect of developing at some future 
time into a railway. In this connection it may be pointed 
out that a branch line from the Batum-Tiflis-Baku 
Railway already runs to Erivan, within three days' 
march of the frontier ; and it will be interesting to see, 
when 1905 comes round, whether the clause in the 
Russo-Persian Railway agreement, giving the option of 
a further five years' extension, will be taken advantage 
of Be that as it may, there can be little doubt that 
sooner or later the direct road to Persia will run via 
Julfa and Tabriz. 

In the capital itself the Chancellor of an exhausted 
exchequer was trembling at the prospect of having to 
find the wherewithal for a proposed royal procession 
to Meshed, with a possible repetition of the European 
expedition looming like a nightmare in the distance ! 
while the chances of his being able to maintain a hold 
upon his precarious grasp of office afforded a daily — 
almost hourly — subject of discussion. The journey to 
Meshed has so far been staved off, nor does there ap- 
pear to be any immediate prospect of a return of the 


; Shah to Europe ; nevertheless, the said Prime Minister, 
^ the courteous, if ambitious, Atabeg-Azam, who so 
! kindly granted me an audience while at Teheran, has 
i since found it convenient, as it is euphemistically put, 
) to embark upon a prolonged pilgrimage to Mecca ! 
And the Ain-ed-Dowleh, formerly governor of Teheran, 
now reigns in his stead. 

It has not been my purpose in the present chapter 
to portray Persia as a piece, acting in conjunction with 
other pieces, upon the international chess-board of the 
East, — that I hope to do in a subsequent chapter. I 
have merely made mention of such passing events as 
happened to take place during my visit to the country 
in the spring of 1903, because such events, however 
small in themselves, are the factors which combine to 
determine the direction of any move — even if it be 
but the move of a pawn — which may subsequently be 
made. Let me dwell but one moment longer, before 
leaving the country, to offer praise to whom praise is 
due for those signs of a recrudescence of British pres- 
tige which it was impossible not to observe. If Sir 
Arthur Hardinge had done no more than to force 
upon the British Government the necessity of adopt- 
ing a policy with regard to Persia, he would indeed 
have deserved well of his country ; but I may further 
add, without, I hope, incurring a charge of imperti- 
nence, that all those whose desire it is to see Great 
Britain assert herself once more in the councils of the 
East may congratulate themselves on the capable way 
in which their interests in Persia are at the present 
time being handled. No one whose lot has cast him 
among the strange places of the East can fail to 
have had brought home to him, as never before, the 
real significance of the phrase, " the heart and fibre 



PERSIA IN 1903. 

of the British people," or to have learnt, as has 
been said by a well-known writer, that it is indeed 
in Asia that one realises best what Great Britain is, 
and that it is there that one sees " the pick of her 
sons living the larger and nobler life that men should 

1 Mr E. F. Knight. 





The highroad to Persia — A contrast in scenery — Cost of the chausse—Dis- 
ad vantages of — The object of Russia — A huge advertisement — What 
the Persian thinks — Leave Teheran — Persian methods — Teheran to 
Resht — The silk industry — Obstacles encountered between Resht and 
Enzeli — A false start — Off at last. 

You cannot pass imperceptibly out of Persia into 
Russia, as you would out of Italy into Switzerland, for 
instance. She makes her presence undeniably felt right 
up to the last, and you inevitably miss something when 
you leave her. Though I had entered Persia twice 
and left her once, I had never passed through what I 
suppose may be described as the usual entrance, and I 
found the journey instructive. The road is Russian, 
built at enormous cost and so far at considerable loss, 
but the service is Persian — eminently so. 

The most striking feature is the extraordinary change 
in the scenery as one enters the lower slopes of the 
mountains of Ghilan. Behind lies the staring sterility 
with its crude outlines and harsh contours, — "a vast 
rocky horrid wilderness," — which, to any one who has 
seen, and who therefore accepts the rhapsodies of Moore 
with the indulgence they demand, means Persia. A 
sudden descent down a precipitous mountain - road, 
round sharp corners, and along a valley where flows a 


mud- coloured torrent, and behold, the sterility is gone ! 
All round vast forests have sprung up, where all the 
trees of Europe grow in wild profusion. Soft-coloured 
hills melt away imperceptibly into space, and a filmy 
blue haze fills in the distance. The undergrowth is 
tropical in luxuriance, English in its character. Wild- 
flowers which thrive in the woods and lanes of England 
crop up in all directions. No Aladdin's lamp or genie's 
ring could transfer one more effectually from one world 
to another than do the ragged ponies and decrepit 
phaetons of the Teheran-Resht post-road. 

The road, as I have said, is Russian ; but I must 
admit that it was some time before I in any way 
realised what it was that Russia expected to gain when 
she embarked on an undertaking which involved an 
outlay out of all proportion to any tangible result. 
Nearly £500,000, three-fourths of which were found 
by the Russian Government, were expended in the 
construction of an indifferent carriage-road 225 miles 
in extent, of which 94 miles, lying over a level plain, 
were already in existence prior to the advent of Russian 
enterprise, and can claim to have received but scant 
attention from the engineer ever since. 

As a military highway the road is inadequate, and, 
in view of the lines of entry from Russia, both on the 
north-west and on the north-east, superfluous ; as an 
adjunct to the comfort of the traveller or as a means of 
reducing the time expended on the journey, it is scarcely 
an unqualified success, — I myself had to spend some 
time kicking my heels on the road, while wood- cutters 
were engaged in removing an obstruction in the shape 
of a large tree, — and as an instrument for assisting 
trade it can only be looked upon as a failure, since the 
cost of transport has risen by fully 10 per cent since 
the road was built. 



But the object aimed at — an object, too, which has 
undoubtedly been achieved — did occur to me at last. 
The whole concern from beginning to end is a huge 
advertisement. From the time that you set foot on the 
road at one end to the time that you leave it at the 
other, the one word which is incessantly brought before 
your mind is Russia. At every turn there are posts 
decked out in the colours of Russia. There are toll-bars 
at which you are confronted with toll- collectors — from 
Russia. When you drive up to the rest-houses on the 
road you pass between gate-posts painted with the 
black-and-white bands which you instantly recognise as 
identical with the same objects which you meet with on 
the post-roads in Russia, and it is even said that in the 
first instance the flag that flew from every suitable 
point, until the practice was discontinued owing to the 
awakened susceptibilities of Persia, was the flag of 

And the Persian travelling along the road sees the 
might of Russia flaunted in the face of Persia, and, 
seeing it, takes it for granted with Persian indiflerence. 
Kismet — it is fate ; and if anything passes through his 
mind at all, it is probably the thought that after 
all he would not be any worse ofl* under any other 
government, while he might possibly be better. 
Is it worth the money ? Well, that is for Russia to 
decide, and she appears to think that it is, and when 
Russia thinks anything worth spending money on, she 
does not hesitate to spend it. There is no troublesome 
House of Commons with its still more troublesome 
Opposition to put spokes in the wheels of autocratic 
ambition in Russia. 

I got into my carriage with a fourgon in tow for the 
luggage on April 14, and as I was driven at reckless 
pace down the *' Boulevard des Ambassadeurs," through 



the gun square and into the slums beyond, I supposed 
that I had started. Not at all. By the time we 
reached the carriage depot, just outside the town walls, 
my driver (oh, clever one !) discovered that we had no 
lamps, and when the lamps were found to be missing 
it was further discovered that there were no brackets 
to hold them even if there had been any. I spent an 
interesting half - hour watching a cautious carpenter 
drilling holes, putting in screws, and finally, when, 
more Fersico, he found he had drilled holes too large 
for the screws, tying everything up with string, and 
then at last we started. It was all a silly, useless 
waste of time, because the lamps, like those of the 
foolish virgins, when required for use were found to 
contain no oil ! These are the little matters which 
keep you informed that you are in Persia. 

For the first half of the journey the road runs over 
a level plain and passes through Kazvin, a fair-sized 
town, and centre, so to speak, of recent Eussian con- 
cessions for road -making. Thirty miles beyond, one 
plunges headlong down the mountains along a fairly 
well-planned mountain road, which presently launches 
you through a belt of olives into the riotous profusion 
of the woods below, and finally on to a jungle-covered 
plain which stretches from the mountain base to the 
shores of the Caspian Sea. At one end of this plain is 
situated Resht, the capital of Ghilan, a town of 70,000 
inhabitants and centre of the silk industry, which since 
its recovery in 1893, after a period of extinction due to 
disease, has steadily increased, and is now carried on 
on a larger scale than at any previous period of its 
history, the disease difficulty having been got over by 
importing all the eggs from Europe and Asia Minor. 
Here the carriage service ends, which again calls to 
your mind the fact that you are in Persia, because you 



are still a long way from where you want to get to 
before you can embark. 

In order to get from Resht to Enzeli a series of 
operations are required. First, you must bargain with 
a carriage owner to take you over the four or five 
miles of execrable road to Pir-i- Bazaar, a crowded 
wharf on the banks of a small river. Here more 
bargaining with a perspiring crowd of native boat- 
owners, the possessors of an extraordinarily variegated 
vocabulary, before you can be transferred to the mouth 
of the river, where you may catch a small steamer if 
you are lucky enough to hit upon its moment of de- 
parture, which will then take you across the lagoon to 
Enzeli. My river -boat failed to effect a connection 
with the steamer, so I had perforce to be rowed across 
the lagoon. Finally, I was officiously hurried on board 
a small steam-launch which lay alongside the Custom- 
house at Enzeli ; there was a piercing screech from the 
steam-whistle, and we pushed pompously off for our 
ship, which was said to be lying anchored in open 
water close by. 

You would now suppose that your troubles were 
really at an end ; but no, — once more were we to put 
up with hope deferred. After steaming aimlessly 
about in the open water a short distance from the 
lagoon in a vain endeavour to find our ship, it was 
decided that she had not arrived, — this was perfectly 
obvious from the shore, since not a speck was visible 
on the water, but I suppose it had not occurred to 
any one to look first, — and we returned once more to 
spend another weary hour or two on the landing-stage 
at Enzeli. It was not till near 10 p.m. that we made 
another attempt, and were at last successful in our 
efforts to embark. " Alhamdu lillah ! " breathed a 
weary passenger. "Amen," said I. 


" 'Tis the clime of the East, 'tis the land of the Sun, 
Can he smile on such deeds as his children have done ? 
Oh wild as the accents of lovers' farewell 

Are the hearts which they bare and the tales which they tell." 



Civilisation again — The commercial aspect of Baku — A weird sight — 
Natural fire — An ancient fire -temple — The boilers of Balakhani — A 
hundred tons of oil a-day — " Spouters " — The interior of a derrick — A 
calamity at an oil-well — Statistics of the oil trade — A high excise 
duty — Price of oil in London and in Eussia. 

To be travelling once more by the aid of steam, after 
four months almost incessant caravanning, was certainly 
a pleasant sensation, and the pleasure was infinitely 
added to by the extraordinary interest of the journey 
that lay before me. Behind lay the bleak stretches of 
the Mesopotamian steppe, the crude outlines and harsh 
contours of the Persian mountains, the long days of 
monotonous marching, the hard fare of the wanderer 
in desert lands, and the miserable accommodation of 
the Turkish khan and the Persian serai. The tran- 
sition from such surroundings to Baku is positively 
startling. A short journey in a comfortable little 
steamer up the Caspian, and behold, you step ashore 
amid what appears to you after your long exile the 
acme of civiUsation. Imposing stone buildings confront 
you in whichever direction you turn, commodious shops 
display their wares behind plate-glass windows, a strik- 
ing green spire with gilded cupola glittering in the 
sun rises high above the rest from a spacious cathedral, 
— unmistakable evidence that you are in a Russian 



town, — and, above all for you, an excellent hotel, with 
first-class restaurant and most of the appliances which 
modern civilisation has devised to make life livable, 
extends a cordial welcome to the traveller. 

That is one aspect of Baku, but there is another 
far more important, because it represents the sole 
excuse for the city's existence. As all the world 
knows, Baku and its 150,000 inhabitants exist upon 
oil. If there were no oil there would be no Baku. 
So, in addition to the Baku of lofty houses, well-stocked 
shops, and spacious streets, there is a viUe noire, where 
thousands of tons of crude oil are daily reduced to 
kerosene, benzine, lubricating oil, and residues for fuel ; 
and there are also at a little distance from the town 
vast forests of derricks, queer grimy-looking pyramidal 
erections, under cover of which are carried on those 
mysterious operations of boring and pumping which 
disgorge the wealth-bringing oil from the bowels of 
the earth. I think Balakhani, with its 2000 derricks 
packed as closely to one another as the trees of a forest, 
presents one of the weirdest sights it has ever been 
my fortune to behold. 

A curious feature connected with the oil-fields is the 
escape of inflammable gas which is observable in various 
places. It is possible literally to set the Caspian on fire 
on a calm night in certain spots near the peninsula, 
and there are places where it is only necessary to make 
a hole in the ground with your stick to let loose a jet 
of gas giving a flame of several feet in height.^ This 
phenomenon was observed and recorded of old by one 
Guthrie, a traveller in Persia, who wrote that in 
Taurida, in any piece of ground where springs of naphtha 

^ In ' Telegraph and Travel ' Sir F. Goldsmid writes : " To say that these 
fires are curious or worth seeing is to say nothing. They are marvellous, 
and worthy of classification among natural wonders." 



obtain, by merely sticking an iron tube in the earth 
and applying a light to the upper end, the mineral oil 
will burn till the tube is decomposed, or for a vast 
number of years." Small wonder that in such sur- 
roundings the creed of the Zend Avesta^ took root 
and flourished, or that a glamour of romance should 
still hang over the old fire- temple at Surah Khani, 
where there abound fissures in the earth where the 
mere application of a lighted match is all that is 
required to restore the once holy flame of the disciples 
of Zoroaster ; but the revered figure of the aged high 
priest, a once familiar sight in the precincts of the 
temple, is now no more seen, and with the removal of 
the last of the fire- worshippers twenty years ago, the 
care of the sacred flame came to an end, all sentiment 
being finally destroyed by an enterprising company, 
who now collect the gas and send it by a pipe to 
Balakhani, there to be used as required at the wells ! 
There is something pathetic in the sight of the hallowed 
places of the past converted into a means of assisting 
the universal craze of modern money-making, and I 
hastened from this scene of dissipated religious fervour 
to the noisy activity of the wells themselves, which at 
least are devoid of illusion, and make no pretence to 
having ever been anything else but what they are. 

As I have said, the oil-fields present an extraordinary 
sight, and as you breathe in the lurid atmosphere of 
Balakhani and gaze on the weird scene which sur- 
rounds you while you listen to the uncanny noises 
which proceed from the interior of the grimy derricks, 
you might well be excused for supposing that you had 
inadvertently tumbled prematurely into some peculiar 

^ The Bible of the Parsees, by whom, however, it is called simply Avesta, 
the word Zend being especially employed to denote the translation and 
exposition of a great part of the Avesta which exists in Pehlevi. 



form of Hades. This impression is in no way lessened 
by a visit to the boiler-house, where steam for working 
the drills and pumps is generated. Here stand a row 
of cylindrical boilers, very much the same as boilers any- 
where else, but with this difference— there is no coal 
and there are no ashes, and there is no dirt. At the 
mouth of the furnace, where, in the case of an ordinary 
boiler, coal is put in and ashes are raked out, are fixed 
the mouth-pieces of two small pipes. By means of these 
a spray of petroleum is driven into the furnace by a jet 
of steam, and a roaring, all-devouring tongue of fire 
races from one end of the chamber to the other. The 
flame thus produced is possessed of a violent vitality, 
and the roar and hiss is as of the sound of the rushing 
of many waters. 

Mere prosy facts, however, are here as astonishing as 
abstract impressions. I stood and watched the rich, 
slimy, dark-green fluid, with its pink glittering froth, 
being discharged by the great baler of one of the bor- 
ings on the Bibi Eibat field, and became fascinated 
when I learnt that I was watching an implement which 
was alone raising upwards of 100 tons of oil a-day I 
Later I learned something of spouters," and the plod- 
ding baler with its hard-earned reward of 100 tons 
seemed a poor thing in comparison. I was not fortu- 
nate enough to see. one myself, but I caught something 
of the enthusiasm of those who had. A spouter is 
gloriously indiflerent to restraint, and often blows the 
derrick to matchwood ; but then it throws up anything 
from 7000 to 10,000 tons of marketable oil — say 
roughly from £350,000 to £500,000^— in the course of 
twenty-four hours, and what is the cost of a mere 
derrick as compared to this ? Some one who thought 

1 On the basis of S'll kopecks a pood, the average price of raw naphtha 
at the wells in 1901. 



it a pity that anything should be lost — a Scotsman 
no doubt — invented an apparatus for controlling the 
spouter. It took the form of a steel cap, against 
which the spouter was to play, but the spouter simply 
laughed at so puerile a device. At least I know of 
one which bored a hole as clean as a drill through a 
9-inch steel plate in three hours ! 

Having seen the raw product discharged into re- 
servoirs constructed for the purpose, I next entered a 
derrick to see what was happening inside. The boring 
is quite small, only a few inches in diameter, growing 
smaller too as it descends, and when you come to con- 
sider that it will as likely as not go down 2000 feet 
or more into the bosom of the earth, you realise the 
extraordinary difficulties which may beset the searcher 
for oil. One of the worst calamities that can befall 
him is for something such as an implement to fall down 
the narrow shaft and get stuck at the bottom. Days 
of patient and anxious labour may be expended in an 
endeavour to fish it up again or pound it to powder if 
this proves impracticable, and, if the worst comes, the 
well may have to be abandoned and the work begun 
all over again. One company fished for implements 
thus fallen for five months, and then gave it up and 
bored a new well. It is on record that the remarks of 
the said company on the subject of choked wells were 
not good to hear. The average cost of boring a well is 

It is difficult to give any adequate idea of the air of 
bustle and activity which pervades the oil-fields which 
surround the town. Perhaps the following facts may 
serve to assist the imagination. In 1902 the aggregate 
depth bored in sinking new wells and deepening old 
ones reached a total little short of 46 miles, a figure 
which was surpassed in each of the four preceding 



years, and actually reached the astonishing amount in 
1900 of 94 miles 84 yards ! In the course of the year 
1902, 1895 wells on the Ansheronsk peninsula yielded 
10,266,594 tons of naphtha — an average, that is to say, 
of 54171 tons per well. Of this amount 1,528,706|- 
tons were given by fountains. 

Statistics for the year 1901 show an output of 
10,822,580f tons from 1924 wells, of which 7,837,096f 
tons were exported in the form of kerosene, lubricants, 
naphtha residues, and raw naphtha, in the following 
amounts: kerosene 2,075,806|^ tons, lubricants 206,45 1|- 
tons, naphtha residues 4,988,709f tons, and raw naphtha 
566,129 tons.i 

The number of inactive wells must necessarily increase 
rapidly, and of late years this increase has been very 
marked, as many as 1273 wells having become ex- 
hausted in the course of 1901, as compared with 842 
in the previous year and 594 in 1899, the average 
yearly number thrown out of work from 1892 up to 
that time being about 400. Nevertheless, the supply 
exhibits small signs of becoming exhausted, the output 

1 For the benefit of those who are sufficiently interested, I append the 
following comparison between the Baku and American oil-fields : — 


Output of Baku oil-fields, 1901, . 10,822,580§ 

Exports from Baku, 1901— 

Kerosene .... 2,075,806J 

Lubricants .... 206,451^ 

Naplitha residues . . . 4,98S,709| 

Raw naphtha . . . 566,129 


Average daily yield of the 
wells of the Ansheronsk 

peninsula, 1901 . . . 29,661 

Output of American oil-fields, 


Exports from America, 1901— 
Kerosene . 
Naphtha residues 
Raw naphtha . 
Benzine and gaseous 



Average daily yield of the 
wells of the United States, 




for 1901 showing an increase of 1,145,161 tons on the 
previous year, and of 10,467,742 tons on the output of 
twenty years ago. The capital sunk has of course 
largely increased, as is shown by the fact that in 
December 1902 there were 1423 wells yielding oil, as 
compared with 324 in the same month ten years ago, 
564 new wells being bored in the course of the year 
1902, as compared with 200 in 1892, while in 1900 as 
many as 1010 wells were sunk. 

Oil from Baku naturally travels far, the rival wells 
of Pennsylvania and Lima being situated at a comfort- 
able distance on the other side of the globe ; and the 
first thing I saw on the outskirts of Irkutsk, in far-off 
Siberia, was a large oil-tank bearing the name of Nobel 
of Baku, and one of the last things I noticed at the 
end of my journey was an office of the same firm at 
Dalni on the confines of the Far East. The huge 
export, soon to be further assisted by means of a 
government pipe laid from Baku to Tiflis, similar to 
the one already existing between Tiflis and Batum — 
in 1901, 1,198,387 tons of naphtha products were 
exported abroad from Batum as compared with 51,613 
tons to Russia — is, however, to a certain extent arti- 
ficial, the high excise duty of 60 kopecks per pood 
(about 4Jd. per gallon) being responsible for the prices 
in Russia being as high and sometimes higher than 
they are in London ! Thus, though the average price 
of kerosene at Baku^ in 1901 was about Id. a gallon, 
the excise duty brought it up to over 5d., the price in 
London in December of that year varying from 6^d. 
to 6^d. a gallon. For further comparison take the 
prices of kerosene in December 1900, which were at 
Baku ^ l|^d. a gallon, at Tzaritzin in South Russia 6|-d. 
a gallon, and in London 5^d. to 6^d. a gallon. At the 

^ Actual price free on waggon. ^ ibid. 




same time, the price of kerosene in New York was 
3jd. a gallon. 

I have been at some pains to give statistics of the 
oil trade, partly because, owing to the difficulty of 
obtaining reliable data, they are seldom placed be- 
fore the public, and partly because, without adducing 
figures, it is impossible to give any idea of the 
magnitude and importance of the industry/ Let me 
now invite any one who is wearied by the contem- 
plation of so imposing an array of statistics to accom- 
pany me across the Caspian to that land where facts 
and figures have ever been shrouded by a veil of 
mystery and romance. 

1 It is worth while drawing attention to the rapidly increasing demand 
for liquid fuel. Engines on the Transcaspian railway and steamers on the 
Volga have long been driven by naphtha residues. It is already in use in 
the Eussian navy, and is being experimented with in more than one ship 
in our own. 





Origin of the idea of railway communication with Central Asia — The 
chimerical conception of M. de Lesseps — With the defeat of Lomakin, 
railway schemes are revived — Lack of suitable transport — General 
Annenkoff's line — England suspicious — The Pendjeh incident — 
Renewal of work on the Transcaspian railway — Completion of the 
line — Leave Baku — Krasnovodsk — On board the train — Geok Teppe 
— A false report — The steppe in spring — Khiva — Merve — The 
Murgab branch to the Afghan frontier — A desert of sand — The 
bridge over the Oxus — Reach Bokhara. 

" The great difficulty Russia has to contend with 
in Central Asia consists in immense distances, inter- 
sected by waterless wastes, which impede the progress 
of armies. In overcoming this, the camel, however 
useful for peaceful caravan purposes, has been tried 
and found utterly wanting." ^ And Russia wanted 
above all things to send armies into Central Asia, 
so with commendable wisdom she lost no time in 
making such arrangements as would enable her to 
do so. 

1 For the facts concerning the construction of the railway I am 
indebted to Lord Curzon's 'Russia in Central Asia,' Messrs Skrine 
and Ross's 'Heart of Asia,' and Mr C. Marvin's 'Russians at Merve 
and Herat ' ; while to the proprietors of ' The Times ' I am also indebted 
for permission to make use of an article of my own descriptive of the rail- 
way at the present day, which has already appeared in their columns. 

2 ' The Akhal Tekke Oasis and Roads to India.' General Annenkoff. 
Translated by Charles Marvin. 



The idea of rapid communication between Russia 
and her recently acquired possessions in Central 
Asia had been mooted long before the days of the 
advance from the Caspian, it is true ; but it was 
the lack of suitable transport required by the 
expedition which was to be hurled against the 
Turkoman horde to revenge the defeat of Lomakin 
in 1879 that was responsible for the actual con- 
struction of the Transcaspian railway. 

When Tashkent became a Russian possession in 
1865, the streams of the Sir Daria, and, after the 
conquest of Khiva and practical absorption of Bok- 
hara in 1873, of the Oxus were looked to to supply 
the need of rapid communication between Russia 
proper and Turkestan, and it was not until the 
difficulties of navigation on these rivers proved the 
scheme impracticable that the project of a Central 
Asian railway was seriously thought of. With 
Tashkent, in the heart of Turkestan, in the hands 
of the Russians, and the fierce and unruly tribes 
of Transcaspia still beyond the zone of Russian 
ambition, it was only natural that that place should 
have been the objective of the earlier schemes of 
railway extension, and in 1873 a Russian official was 
ordered to prepare a report on the possibility of a 
line from Orenburg. Out of these suggestions grew 
the chimerical conception of M. de Lesseps of a rail- 
way from Calais to Calcutta — a project, however^ 
which soon sank into oblivion with the cold re- 
ception of England, and the departure of its origin- 
ator to Panama. The less ambitious though, never- 
theless, costly undertaking of uniting Orenburg and 
Tashkent by a line across the many hundreds of 
miles of unpopulated and unproductive desert, in 
spite of the patronage of General Kaufmann, was 



likewise regarded with little favour by the Gov- 
ernment at St Petersburg, and soon fell into the 
background, where it was doomed to slumber till 
wakened thirty years later by the powerful hand 
of M. Witte. 

With the failure of such schemes the idea of a 
railway to Central Asia was for the time being 
banished, and it was not until 1879, when Lomakin 
suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the Turk- 
omans, that the project was again brought to the 
forefront of Russian policy in Asia, this time to 
take definite form, and to come into being in after- 
years in the shape of the military Transcaspian 

The reverse suffered by the Russians at the hands 
of an Asiatic foe was one which shook the whole 
fabric of Muscovite power in Central Asia, requir- 
ing an immediate and decisive campaign of revenge 
to re-establish the shaken structure on a firm base 
once more, and operations were at once taken in 
hand to repair the damage which had been sustained. 

The chief difficulty encountered was occasioned by 
the want of suitable transport, the utter futility of 
relying upon camels for this purpose having already 
been amply demonstrated by the expeditions of 1879 
and 1880, in the former of which two-thirds of the 
camels used had succumbed, while only 350 out of 
a total of 12,596 had survived the advance of 1880.^ 
To overcome this difficulty a service of traction-engines 
was proposed by General Petrusevitch, and later on 
the construction of a tramway between Tchikishlar 

^ These are the figures given in Lord Curzon's 'Russia in Central 
Asia.' In General Annenkoff's 'Akhal Tekke Oasis,' already quoted, he 
says : " During the Akhal Tekke expedition of 1879 as many as 9600 
camels perished out of 10,000." 


and the edge of the Tekke oasis was mooted ; but 
a far more important project came into being when 
General Skobeleff, who had taken with him General 
Annenkoff, the controller of military transport, decided 
in favour of Krasnovodsk as against Tchikishlar as 
his base of operations. A hundred miles of steel rails, 
lying idle at Bender, which had been purchased and 
stored "for use in the Balkan peninsula in 1878 in 
the event of the collapse of the Congress of Berlin," ^ 
were transported to the eastern shore of the Caspian, 
and the first link of the railway which now runs 
for over 1200 miles to Andijan and Tashkent, and 
is destined in the future to join hands with the 
great trans - continental railway in the north, was 
forged under the powerful influence and able direc- 
tion of General Annenkoff*. 

The line which had thus been built solely with a 
view to affording the transport necessary for the army 
advancing against the Turkomans failed in its im- 
mediate object, since Skobeleff had secured his great 
victory of Geok Teppe before the line was completed. 
But the far-reaching possibilities of a railway running 
east along the frontiers of Persia and Afghanistan had 
at length begun to dawn on the minds of Bussian 
statesmen, and though the original reason for its con- 
struction was no longer there, the building of the line 
was nevertheless carried out; and in December 1881, 
eleven months after the collapse of the Turkoman 
power, the first train steamed into Kizil Arvat. 

At this point the railway rested for three and a half 
years, the suspicions of England, aroused by the 
surveys of Lessar on the Afghan borderland, and 
the opposition of the Turkestan party, headed by 
the governor of Tashkent, General Tchernaieff*, who 

* Kussia in Central Asia. Lord Curzon. 



regarded with unconcealed disfavour a scheme which 
could not fail to enhance the importance of the Trans- 
caspian territories at the expense of their own, consti- 
tuting the chief obstacles to a further advance ; but in 
the spring of 1885 occurred the Pendjeh incident on 
the Afghan frontier, which determined once for all the 
future of the Transcaspian railway, and from this time 
the policy of railway extension in this part of the world 
''emerged as a menace to England and a warning to 

And so it happened that while the British were con- 
structing the railways of Hurnai and the Bolan in 
Baluchistan, the Russians were steadily pushing their 
long steel arm into the heart of Asia. 

Work began on June 30, 1885, the rolling camp 
which carried the staff, workmen, and material moving 
forward at the rate of four miles a-day as the line 
was laid. Beyond Kizil Arvat 22,000 Tekke labourers 
levelled the soil, with a result that Merve, which had 
succumbed to the intrigues of Alikhanoff and the bravado 
of Komaroff early in 1884, was reached in a period of 
fourteen months. In August 1886 work was begun on 
the section between Merve and Chardjui on the Oxus, 
and in spite of the terrible difficulties experienced from 
driving sand, the whole distance of 141 miles was com- 
pleted in little more than four months, and the railway 
brought into working order throughout the 664 miles 
from the Caspian to the Oxus. 

The river here is at the present time spanned by a 
fine steel girder bridge ; but such an undertaking was 
considered out of the question in 1887, and a huge and 
cumbrous wooden viaduct was carried across the water 
on piles driven into the river-bed. The engineer who 
was responsible for this extraordinary structure was a 
Pole, Bielinski by name — and when it comes to be con- 



sidered that he laid a way 4600 yards in length, includ- 
ing 2270 yards of water-way, resting upon no less than 
3330 wooden piles, between June 1887 and January 
1888, for the very moderate sum of £44,000,^ he must 
certainly be credited with an excellent performance. 

In September 1887 the 216 miles between the Oxus 
and Samarkand were taken in hand, the latter place 
being reached in May 1888, and by June 1 trains were 
running regularly from the Caspian to the ancient 
capital of Timur, a distance of 879 miles. Here for 
the moment the railway halted; but in 1895 works 
were begun for the prolongation of the line to Andijan 
and Tashkent, a distance altogether of 401 miles, and 
at the present time trains run regularly to both these 
places. In addition to the main line, a branch of 192 
miles has been built from Merve to Kushk on the 
Afghan frontier, which has been open to traffic since 

Such in brief is the history of the construction of 
the Transcaspian railway ; let me now invite the reader 
to accompany me in a journey over it as it exists at 
the present day. 

At five o'clock one evening towards the end of April ^ 
I boarded the steamship Skoheleff, a new vessel belong- 
ing to the Mercury and Caucasus Steam Navigation 
Company, lit throughout with electric light, and pos- 
sessed of comfortable cabins and an excellent cuisine^ 
and two hours later we left noisy, smelly, money- 
making Baku behind and steamed eastward into the 
night. Seventeen or eighteen hours is ample time to 
cross the Caspian in fine weather, and by midday the 

^ This is the sum given in Messrs Skrine and Ross's * Heart of Asia ' as 
the actual cost, without the pay of transport, and of the railway battalion 
engaged in erecting it. In Lord Curzon's ' Russia in Central Asia ' the cost 
is stated to have been only £30,000. 



day following we were disembarking on the landing- 
stage at Krasnovodsk, the point of departure of the 
Transcaspian railway, with whose clean-looking white 
houses, pretentious railway - station, and forbidding 
setting of bare brown hills previous wanderings had 
made me familiar. There is no cause to envy any one 
whose fate dictates a sojourn at Krasnovodsk. Just as 
oil is the raison d'etre of Baku, so the necessity for 
the Transcaspian railway having a starting-point some- 
where is alone responsible for the existence of Krasno- 
vodsk. They have another point in common — namely, 
entire absence of fresh water, and in both towns the 
whole population is supplied from a huge distillery. 
Of course, there is not a blade of grass or sign of vege- 
tation of any sort, while it would be difficult to imagine 
a spot into which the noonday rays could beat down 
with greater fury, or where you could receive a more 
vivid impression of a land parched and stricken by the 
sun. If, as is commonly reported, you can cook eggs 
by merely laying them on the sands of Baluchistan, 
you should find no difficulty in frying bacon on the 
pavements of Krasnovodsk ! 

Towards evening the white carriages of the train, so 
soon about to start on its wonderful journey, drew up 
alongside the platform, and a short inspection revealed 
the fact that innovations had lately been made. Until 
quite recently there were no first-class carriages on the 
line, and loud have been the complaints by travellers of 
the inconveniences they have suffered. Now, however, 
I found a first-class carriage and restaurant car attached, 
and as we steamed out of the station punctually at five 
o'clock everything promised well for a comfortable jour- 
ney. The blue waters of the Caspian remained in 
sight till dark, and then we turned east and held our 
way steadfastly for the heart of Asia. 



In the small hours of the morning the great railway 
depot and workshops of Kizil Arvat were passed, and 
dawn revealed a desolate land all round, broken only 
by a chain of sullen mountains on the Persian frontier 
to the south. At ten o'clock we steamed slowly into a 
small wayside station — Geok Teppe. What a tumultu- 
ous whirl of thought the two small words set going. 
We were passing through the district which held out 
to the last against the advance of the great white 
power from the North. One by one the khanates had 
succumbed. Turkestan, Tchimkent, and Tashkent fell 
within a single year, Samarkand and the rich province 
of Zerafshan were lonof since o^one, then came Khiva and 
Khokand. But the fierce Turkomans, brought up in an 
atmosphere of blood and pillage, fought desperately to 
the end. Here, within 50 yards of the railway-station, 
the Russian general Lomakin was defeated with heavy 
loss. The result was a severe blow to Russian prestige 
and a check in their advance. The day of reckoning 
went back two years, but when it came it was decisive. 
What need to recall the elaborate precautions of the 
Russians as they advanced under the genius Skobeleff, 
or the terrible three weeks during which 35,000 Tekke 
Turkomans were besieged in their stronghold Dengil 
Teppe? It is now over twenty years ago,^ but the 
horror of the death-grip when Russians attacked and 
Turkomans attacked back, and the ghastly terror of 
the last pursuit, will live for centuries. Twelve hundred 
Russian soldiers lay dead or wounded ; nine thousand 
Turkoman warriors went where dead Turkomans go. 
Inside the ramparts the ground is now covered with 
grass and scrub. A monument surmounted by a cross, 
and smaller crosses at other points, stand in memory of 

1 The Eussians captured the fort, if it can be described as such, on 
January 24, 1881. 




the Russian slain. All is now perfect peace. The 
Turkoman of to - day examines the mouldering mud 
walls curiously, and saunters through the museum, a 
small building of white stone containing Turkoman 
arms, pictures of the onslaught, and portraits of the 
leading men concerned, erected between the ramparts 
and the station. The train is an odd accessory and 
seems out of place, but it is an unmistakable sign of 
the times. 

Close upon Geok Teppe comes Ashkabad, the capital 
of Transcaspia. From here there is a highroad to 
Meshed. I have seen it somewhere described as 
good, — in a Foreign Office report I think, — and so it 
is as far as the frontier. Let the man who would 
eulogise the Persian section travel over it. I have, 
and the memory lives ! There is another fallacy about 
Ashkabad and the Persian frontier, that they are con- 
nected by rail. I was myself under this delusion not 
so very long ago, having been informed of the fact by 
an eyewitness ! There is no branch line from Ashkabad 
or any other point on the railway until the famous 
Murgab is reached. 

After Ashkabad, quiet for a space ; one requires it 
after the sensation of Geok Teppe. Looking out of the 
window the mountains still run parallel on the south, 
the lower slopes covered with grass, the higher peaks 
patched with snow. Everywhere else a vast sea of 
waving grass, scarlet poppies, and other flowers. This 
is the steppe in spring, and is but a transient phase of 
the wild limitless plain. A little later the riotous 
verdure will be gone and the land will revert to its 
usual state, a parched white wilderness. That is in- 
evitable in a land where the sun beats for six months 
from an unflecked sky. 

As you steam steadily on, your mind ponders on 


many things. You remember that far away across the 
desert to the north lies Khiva. A man once made a 
reputation by riding there : no one would do so now — 
save perhaps for folly. For Khiva, like Bokhara, has 
had its day, and the revolving wheel of fortune has 
consigned its khan to the unambitious position of a 
nonentity. When the world forces come to be summed 
up in Asia, Khiva need no longer be taken into accoun' 
even as a pawn upon the board. Still it was not 
always thus, as the records of Russian expeditions 
could tell. Three centuries ago the Yaik Cossacks, 
pirate scourges of the Caspian Sea, set forth for the 
rich province called Khowarizm or Khiva, to sack its 
capital Organtsh.^ But they reckoned without their 
host. Cut off from water by the exasperated Khivans, 
they fell fighting desperately against overwhelming 
odds, quenching their thirst while life remained with 
the blood of the slain. A second expedition met with 
no better fortune, but the culminating disaster was 
left for yet a third under the leadership of the ataman 
Schemai. Lost in the pathless steppe, stranded finally 
on the inhospitable shores of the Aral Sea, their pro- 
visions exhausted, they found themselves in a sorry 
plight. It is on record that " at first the unhappy 
ones killed each other, in order to have human flesh 
to eat; but at last, when brought to the very verge of 
perishing, they summoned the Khivans and voluntarily 
surrendered themselves as slaves." 

The early years of the eighteenth century saw a 
whole Russian army cut up and its leaders massacred 

1 Organtsh, the town we speak of as Khiva, described by one M'Gregor, 
Secretary to the Board of Trade in the 'Forties, as "a town of mud huts, 
with three stone mosques and a mud palace." Dr WolflF describes how 
when he was travelling in Bokhara he heard the cry from the watch- 
towers of that country, " Watch ! watch ! for the people of Organtsh may 
come, kill your cattle, and destroy the child in the mother's womb ! " 



by the cunning of its khan. The head of its leader, 
Prince Bekovitch, was despatched as a gift to a neigh- 
bouring khan, while those of his staff served for 
ornaments to the city walls. It is further said that 
the khan, actuated no doubt by the same desire for 
a vindictive revenge which led Agha Mohammed to 
have the bones of his persecutor Nadir Shah removed 
from their resting-place at Meshed and placed beneath 
the threshold of his palace, in order that he might have 
the exquisite delight of walking over them, caused a 
large drum to be made of the prince's skin, that he 
might have the supreme satisfaction of hearing his 
enemy beaten ! While the expedition under Perovski 
was retreating to Orenburg in 1839, having ignomini- 
ously failed to get more than half-way, two English 
officers. Captain Abbott and Sir Richmond Shakespeare, 
who had penetrated to the khanate, effected the chief 
object of the ill-starred expedition from the north, by 
obtaining the release of the Russian prisoners by 
diplomacy,^ and a few years later Khiva was given a 
certain international importance as being one of the 
countries which the Tsar Nicholas agreed to leave 
" to serve as a neutral zone interposed between Pussia 
and India, so as to preserve them from dangerous 

So late as 1872 a Russian force under General 
Markosoff suffered defeat at the hands of the Khivans 
at Igdy ; and in the following year the now historic 
expedition, which was " to punish acts of brigandage, 
to recover fifty Russian prisoners, and to teach the 

1 According to Dr Wolff it was thanks to the diplomacy of Sir E. 
Shakespeare that the Russian prisoners were liberated. In his ' Bokhara ' 
he writes : " Mr Abbott, who preceded him (Shakespeare), was foolish 
enough to advise the King of Khiva not to give up the Russian slaves 
until he had treated with the Russian emperor ; but Shakespeare was 
wise enough to recommend their immediate cession." 



khan that such conduct on his part could not be con- 
tinued with impunity/' brought about that ruler's 
downfall. So great was the stir caused in England 
by the advance of Kaufmann's expedition that it was 
deemed necessary to reassure the British Government, 
and Count Schouvaloff was instructed to inform Lord 
Granville that " not only was it far from the intention 
of the emperor to take possession of Khiva, but positive 
orders had been prepared to prevent it." Nevertheless, 
Khiva fell ; a most unjustifiable massacre of the Yo- 
mud Turkomans was indulged in by way of an extra 
military flourish, and a treaty signed w4th Bokhara, 
which gave over to Russia all Khivan territory on 
the right bank of the Oxus, opened the river to free 
navigation, and the whole of the khanate to Russian 

At 11 P.M. I awoke with a start. We were just 
drawing up alongside of a brightly lit platform. I 
knew in a moment where we were — we were at Merve. 
Merve is a name which has rung through England. 
Not the Merve of ancient splendour as capital of 
the world of Islam, when the Kalifs ruled from the 
Mediterranean to Tibet, and from the Caspian Sea 
to the Persian Gulf — though the ruins of this Merve, 
too, may be seen ten miles away from the present 
town, close to the station of Bairam Ali — but the 
Merve where, in 1881, O'Donovan saw from 7000 to 
8000 Turkomans working daily on the vast earth- 
works of Kushid Khan Kala, which was to raise an 
impenetrable barrier to the Russian advance. But 
neither the Turkomans nor the frightened protests 
of an awe-struck Cabinet in London saved the strong- 
hold of the Turkomans from the Russian maw. In- 
dignant denials of any intention to take it, from St 
Petersburg, were thankfully swallowed by the trem- 


! bling politicians at Westminster, and Merve was left 
i| to her fate. Nor had she very long to wait, for the 
! expedition of the disguised Russian officer, AlikhanofF, to 
I Merve in 1882 was followed by another of a similar 
1 nature in the early days of 1884, when England had 
her hands conveniently full elsewhere, which resulted in 
the fall of the place with the firing of scarcely a shot. 
And that is how it happens that Merve is to-day a 
Russian town, and an important cantonment for Rus- 
sian troops. 

Beyond the zone of light afforded by the station 
lamps all was dark, silent, and mysterious, and then 
suddenly out of the darkness and silence of the night 
loomed a ghostly engine speeding from the south. 
Here was material for another train of thought, for 
that line to the south runs to the Afghan frontier, 
and is as jealously guarded from foreign gaze as is 
the Tibetan oracle of Lhassa. The Russian advanced 
post at Kushk corresponds exactly to our own at 
Cham an, and without a doubt Russian rails could be 
laid to Herat as soon as ever our own could be to Kan- 
dahar. It is whispered that the terminus of the line 
is to be found inside the walls of a heavily armed fort, 
garrisoned by a number of troops which at least reaches 
four figures, and with barrack accommodation for even 
more. There is also said to be a light railway running 
over the twelve miles between Kushk post and Chehel 
Duckteran, while it is asserted that the length of 
rails stored within the fort is greater than is the 
distance to Herat. Some day, when Afghanistan as 
such has ceased to exist, here will lie the direct over- 
land route to India — but not yet. 

After Merve, peace again ; and when I wake up in 
the morning miles upon miles of sand ! Sand as far 
as the eye can see — and a great deal farther. Parallel 


with the line on either side runs a small quick-set 
fence, or rather the top of one, for the roots are far 
down in the sand, binding it and keeping it from 
burying the line. Had it not been for the curious 
properties of this shrub — saxsaul — it would have been 
wellnigh impossible to have built and held the line ; 
even as it was it must have been heart-breaking work. 

Suddenly the sand gives way to a cultivated oasis, 
and ere long we pull up at Chardjui on the banks of 
the Amu Daria (ancient Oxus). I remember reading 
recently that it had been rechristened Amu Daria 
after the famous river on whose banks it stands ; but 
Chardjui is still writ in large letters over the centre 
of the building. Here the engineer has been recently 
at work, for the old wooden viaduct, on its 3330 wooden 
piles, has been replaced by a fine steel girder bridge a 
verst and a half in length, which we crossed in four 
minutes — a great improvement on the twenty minutes 
required for the passage of the older construction. 
Having with much difficulty and labour driven the 
huge wooden stakes into the bed of the river, they 
would give a good deal now to remove them again, 
but some few have up to the present time resisted 
every effort to displace them, and stand a source of 
constant irritation to the helmsman responsible for the 
safe passage of the craft of the Oxus flotilla. 

Once beyond reach of the life-giving water, sand 
again. Not an even yellow expanse, but great ugly 
corrugated bluffs and hummocks, like the churning 
pits and mountains of an angry sea, the small isolated 
stone buildings forming the stations looking terribly 
lonely in the vast reaches of the desert ; but before 
very long we run into an oasis once more, thanks 
to the proximity of the Zerafshan, and by midday I 



have alighted at the station over which stands the 
word Kagahn. Kagahn suggests little enough, but 
Bokhara suggests a great deal, and Kagahn is the 
name given to the station at New Bokhara since the 
Russians took courage and constructed a branch line 
two years ago, which now deposits the traveller under 
the very walls of Old Bokhara itself. 






New Bokhara — The fascination of Old Bokhara — Its bazaars — A picture 
for an artist's brush — A scourge of the East — Monuments of the past 
— The power of the King of Bokhara — The citadel — Its ancient clock 
— A piteous tale — Violent death — The State prison — Its jailer — The 
scene inside — Khanikoff's description of the lower dungeon — The 
story of Stoddart and ConoUy — Nasrullah, King of Bokhara — The 
journey of Dr Wolff — The notorious vermin pit — Bokhara described 
as it is to-day — Authoritative writers on Bokhara. 

I THINK Bokhara is one of the most fascinating places 
which I have seen in the East — real Bokhara, of course, 
that is. There is nothing in the smallest degree 
fascinating about New Bokhara, which is simply a 
Russian town. It has its conveniences certainly, and 
that is something to be thankful for, even though they 
be devoid of attraction. For there is a hotel at New 
Bokhara, and it is even tolerably clean. It is not kept 
by a Russian if I remember right, but you at once 
realise that you are in a Russian town by the huge 
penny-in-the-slot musical-box, which is the most con- 
spicuous piece of furniture in the apartment set aside 
for meals. It does not seem to matter to a Russian in 
the least what the music is like, so long as there is 
music of some sort to accompany him through his 

But to return to Old Bokhara, eight miles away 




across the plain. I do not know why it is that it 
should attract one more than other cities of the Orient ; 
I only know that it is so. There is an atmosphere per- 
vading it which defies analysis. For from the moment 
that you pass through its mouldering gates to stroll 
through the dust of its time-worn streets, or stand 
beneath the domes of its sombre-lit bazaars, you live 
in another world. No breath of the West penetrates 
the musty atmosphere that you breathe here, heavy 
with the weight of years. 

It is pleasant enough in the softened light of these 
same bazaars, and cool, too, compared with the glare 
and the heat outside. A dark-skinned Hindu, with 
bright orange caste-mark flaming upon his brow, sits 
solemnly surveying the scene. You may purchase odd 
coins of the country from him, for the Hindu is the 
money-changer of the East. All round you, sitting or 
reclining after the manner of their kind in the box-like 
little shops of the Arcade, are the merchants and their 
clerks, ready to bargain with you for their silks and 
their velvets, their khelats and their souzanis, their 
nahs boxes and ornaments, their kalians and beauti- 
fully worked ewers of brass. And on all sides rises 
that hum which is an inseparable accompaniment of an 
Eastern crowd. 

Side-walks branch off" in all directions, where the 
stranger might soon be lost, but we have a native 
jhigit to guide us, kindly lent by the Russian resident 
at New Bokhara, and we follow him as he picks his 
way nimbly through the crowd, to emerge presently in 
an open square surrounded by shops and shady trees, 
while stone steps lead down to a large tank of water, 
which fills the whole of the centre of the enclosure. 

What a picture for an artist's brush ! What a 
perfect presentation of the unregenerate East ! A 



white -turbaned Mullah brushes haughtily by; little 
groups of Bokharans, picturesque in long gaudy- 
coloured robes, squat on the house -roofs or on the 
stone steps in the shade of the trees, leisurely sipping 
green tea and smoking the kalian. Here and there a 
scantily clad figure, attracted by the cool depths of the 
water, sits dangling a not too clean foot in it, while he 
performs sundry ablutionary operations for an equally 
not too clean body. Presently he is joined by a friend 
with his water-skin, who passes the time of day with 
him as he allows it to fill. The water is for drinking, 
and might suggest unpleasant thoughts elsewhere, but 
you see nothing strange in it here. 

It does not do, indeed, to look too closely or too 
critically at the men and manners of the East. You 
look here for the whole effect of the picture, not 
individually at its component parts. It is the golden 
sunshine from an azure sky, the brilliant colouring 
and graceful outline, the deep contrasts in light and 
shade that fill the imagination and delight the eye. 
To look too closely would be to reveal the brazen 
sky of an Eastern summer, the dirt and squalor of 
mud-built shanties, the ghastly horror of unthinkable 

For here more, perhaps, than elsewhere have the 
people been chastised for the abomination of their lives 
and the unutterable evil of their ways. The scourge of 
the rishta lies heavily upon them,^ the terrible wasting 
and putrefaction of the flesh caused by leprosy and other 
kindred disease is only too painfully in evidence, and men 
sink prematurely to the grave, stricken with that "curse 

^ A worm which installs itself under the skin, causing unsightly dis- 
figurement unless carefully and adroitly extracted. " So common is this 
malady in Bokhara," writes Lord Curzon, " that every fifth person sufi'ers 
from it." — Eussia in Central Asia. 



from God," under stress of which it is said that " the 
skin becomes dry and shrivelled, the hair of the body- 
falls off, the nails and teeth tumble out, and the whole 
body assumes a horrible and unseemly appearance." ^ 
And this is the city of which its priests delight to 
declare that whereas in all other parts of the globe light 
descends upon earth, it ascends from holy Bokhara ! 

But the bazaar and its inmates are not solely re- 
sponsible for the fascination of Bokhara. There are 
monuments which recall stirring tales of the past. On 
one side of the Rigistan or market square rise the 
massive walls and gateway of the ark or citadel, built 
more than eight centuries ago by Alp Arslan, "the 
valiant lion," and it is borne in upon you that this is 
''Bokhara the Noble," the city which has seen great 
days, and whose rulers have made whole pages of the 
strange history of the ancient world. There is some- 
thing which inevitably appeals to you in the strange 
vicissitudes through which it has passed. Here, long 
ago, in the days of the Amir Ismail, w^as the capital of 
a vast empire and far-famed seat of learning and cul- 
ture. Nine centuries passed, and great changes were 
sweeping across the map of Asia : rival Powers from 
the West were bidding for the ancient kingdoms of the 
East, and the first half of the nineteenth century saw 
both British and Russian aspirants at the Court of 

Those were the days of the bloody NasruUah. The 
prolonged torment undergone by the two English emis- 
saries, Stoddart and Conolly, as they languished in the 
foul depths of a vermin-infested dungeon, and their 
eventual decapitation in the market-place in 1843, 
caused the name to stink in the nostrils of Englishmen. 

1 Travels into Bokhara. Sir A. Burns. He describes this disease as a 
peculiar kind of leprosy, which he calls mukkom or kolee. 



No light has ever been thrown on the mystery of the 
inaction of the Government on that occasion, who, not 
content with doing nothing of themselves to inquire 
into the fate of their two emissaries, put every sort of 
obstacle in the way of others who were willing to under- 
take the task of discovery. The description of the 
adventurous journey eventually made with this object 
by the eccentric missionary, the Rev. Joseph Wolff, is 
one which is of unsurpassed interest even at the present 
day, though his arrival was too late to effect their 

There is, I believe, no actual reason why such atroci- 
ties should not occur at the present day, for the reigning 
Amir has the power to do what he will with his own 
subjects. Indeed, Lord Curzon, writing in 1889, tells 
of a captive, who had himself committed a cold-blooded 
murder in the town, having his eyelids cut off and his 
eyes gouged out, and being then tied to the tail of an 
ass and dragged to the market-place to be quartered 
and thrown to the dogs, only a short time before his 
visit. ^ But beyond the privilege of disposing of his 
own subjects, little real power is left to the ruler of 
Bokhara, for when Bokhara is spoken of as an inde- 
pendent State, it is but in name, be it understood, 
that its independence exists. 

There was a rumour current in native circles when I 
was in those parts that the lord of Bokhara had decided 
to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. The difficulties and 
fatigue of such a journey were pointed out to him by 
his kind friends the Russians, and he was strongly 
advised not to go. With reflection, however, the desire 
of his soul to behold the great centre of the Moham- 
medan universe — towards which he turned in daily 
prayer — increased many fold, and he at length made it 

^ Russia in Central Asia. 



known that he would go. What happened then ? 
Why, the iron showed through the velvet of the glove, 
and he was peremptorily forbidden to leave his king- 
dom ! And the Amir now realises — what all the rest of 
the world realised long ago — that the ruler of Bokhara 
the Noble has fallen from his high estate. 

I have mentioned this because it gives a correct idea 
of the status of Bokhara to-day. There is no reason 
why it should not remain independent to this extent for 
many years to come — indeed there are two very good 
reasons why it should : firstly, because it suits the 
Russians to enjoy all the advantages of practical pos- 
session while they suffer none of the disadvantages 
entailed by the responsibility of actual occupation ; and, 
secondly, because it is affirmed that at the time of his 
coronation the reigning Emperor gave his word to the 
Amir that the position of Bokhara should remain un- 
changed so long as he was Tsar of all the Russias. 

But I am wandering away from the citadel which 
rises straight in front of us as we cross the Rigistan. 
The accompanying illustration shows the great gateway 
which gives access to it, constructed by Nadir Shah in 
1742, and high above the entrance, midway between 
the two round towers which support it, may be seen 
the dilapidated dial of an ancient clock. It is a 
curiosity in Bokhara, and it ticks out a piteous tale 
of woe. 

An Italian of Parma, Giovanni Orlandi by name, had 
the misfortune to fall into the hands of Nasrullah, King 
of Bokhara. It is said that he was sold with the con- 
nivance of a Russian of Orenburg, who grew rich on 
the profits of an illegal and infamous slave traffic. On 
his refusing to become a convert to Islamism, he was 
thrown into prison and condemned to die ; but on 
promising to construct for the Amir a machine for 



measuring time, he was pardoned, and the clock which 
he then made still stands as a witness to his mechanical 
genius. For a time all went well, Orlandi was granted 
his liberty, and became the artificer of the king. But 
it chanced that one day, when in a state of intoxica- 
tion, he offended his master, by whom he had been 
summoned to repair a telescope which he had recently 
made for him. Imprisonment for a second time now 
became his lot, and a renewal of the command that he 
should join the followers of the Prophet was issued. 
This time his fate was sealed, and in the year 1851 he 
was led out to execution. As a foretaste of what was 
to come the skin of his throat was first cut, and he was 
taken back to his cell to ponder during the long hours 
of darkness on the advisability of his renouncing his 
religion. It speaks volumes for his stoutness of heart 
that even now he remained steadfast in his faith, and 
on the following day the sentence which, with fiendish 
cruelty, had already been in part carried out, was com- 

At no very great distance another building catches 
the eye in the shape of a gigantic tower called the 
Minar Kalan. Of course it has horror connected with 
it — what building is there in Bokhara that has not ? 
It rises to a height of upwards of 200 feet, is circular, 
tapering slightly towards the top, and is covered with 
beautiful designs in carved brick. Imagine a flight 
through 200 feet of air, bound hand and foot, with the 

^ There seems to be some confusion as to the exact story of the ill- 
starred watchmaker. Modesto Gavazzi, an Italian who visited Bokhara in 
1863, and who is responsible for the above details, says, " Twelve or fifteen 
years back there lived at Orenburg" the Russian who, he says, was re- 
sponsible for Orlandi's captivity. But Wolff speaks of Orlandi as being in 
Bokhara when he was there in 1843, and whereas, according to Gavazzi, he 
was unwavering in his determination not to renounce Christianity, Wolflf 
speaks of him as having turned Mussulman. 



hard ground and a yelling mob at the end of it ! That 
is what criminals in the Bokhara of old had to look 
forward to ; for they were taken to the summit, bound, 
and precipitated from one of the apertures which look 
out over the market-place beneath. I was not so 
fortunate as to observe, as did Mr Henry Norman, the 
depression in the ground at the foot of the tower, 
caused by the fall of generations of victims, but I 
shuddered as I stood and gazed up all the same. 

But there is another building which, could it speak, 
would tell tales which might well wring tears from a 
stone, and that building is the zindan or state prison. 
Built on the top of a low mound, surrounded by 
crumbhng brick walls, with low unpretentious wooden 
doors, it presents no imposing appearance, but the 
scene which confronts you within is not good to see. 

The jailer was corpulent and altogether evil-looking, 
and an unpleasant smile stole over his vicious physiog- 
nomy as he invited me to come in. Perhaps he was 
thinking of the excruciating torture which the accursed 
infidel had gone through in Bokhara in the past ; but 
the smile which such recollections conjured up served 
only to illuminate the peculiar villainy which shone 
from what Sheridan would no doubt have described as 
" an unforgiving eye and a damned disinheriting coun- 
tenance ! " 

The scene which presents itself at the present day is 
enough to make one's flesh creep at the thought of 
what was in the past. After passing through a sort of 
guard-room and across an open yard, I came upon two 
cells, one opening out of the other. Both were small, 
absolutely bare, filthily dirty, and sepulchrally gloomy — 
for light, it would appear, is not considered a necessary 
element in the existence of the criminal of Bokhara. 
But it was the inmates that afforded the crowning 



spectacle in this picture of inconceivable misery. Packed 
tightly together, occupying every inch of the bare mud 
floor, lay a reeking mass of worn-out, hope-forsaken 
humanity. The moment that the low door was opened 
and I stood hesitating on the threshold, a dozen 
wretches pushed themselves up into a sitting posture 
to stare vacantly at the intruder, and whenever any 
one moved there was a grim rustling and clanking of 
chains, for one and all were burdened with huge fetters 
and manacles of iron. 

I am not of a particularly squeamish disposition — I 
have seen too much of what has been described as the 
" frank indecency of the East " to be that — but I admit 
that as I picked my way among the piteous inmates of 
this foul cell and peered into the gloom of the dungeon 
beyond, conscious all the time of the presence of the 
hateful personality of the jailer, who stood surveying 
his victims with a cruel leer, I experienced a sensation 
of extreme repugnance. The inner cell was a replica of 
the outer, only more so, and in the centre was a sug- 
gestive depression in the floor, to which a heavily 
chained criminal drew my attention, with every sign of 
satisfaction at my evident discomfort. Here was the 
lower dungeon which was filled up twenty years ago 
at the instigation of the Russian Tcharikofl*, and it 
was while gazing at this that I realised that bad as 
is the present there had yet been a state of aflairs 
incomparably worse in the past. 

Let me quote the description of this den given by the 
Russian Khanikofl*, who resided in Bokhara for eight 
months in the 'Forties : " The zindan or dungeon is to the 
east of the ark, with two compartments : the zindan- 
i-bala (the upper dungeon) and the zindan-i-poin (the 
lower dungeon). The latter is a deep pit, at least three 
fathoms in depth, into which culprits are let down by 



ropes; food is lowered down to them in the same 
manner. The sepulchral dampness of the place in 
winter as well as in summer is said to be insupportable, 
according to the testimony of eyewitnesses." Such 
was the place ; imagination will supply the details as 
to the condition of its victims. 

Was this the den where the two Englishman, Stoddart 
and Conolly, dragged out the last miserable days of 
their lives ? It may be that it was, though the evidence 
would seem to point to an even more refined chamber 
of torture within the walls of the citadel itself as the 
scene of their confinement. 

The whole story is one of supreme interest for English- 
men, and I cannot pass from Bokhara without giving in 
brief outline the facts of the case as far as they have 
ever been ascertained. 

In the year 1826 died Seyid Haydar Tura, Amir of 
Bokhara, and Hussein Khan reigned in his stead. But 
Hussein was cursed with a brother, Nasrullah, who 
had set his heart upon the throne, and after a reign 
of fifty days the king died — not without suspicion of 
poison. The summary methods characteristic of Eastern 
despots now showed themselves in Nasrullah. Omar, 
who had succeeded the deceased Hussein, was betrayed 
by his prime minister and cast into prison; thirty of 
his partisans were instantly put to death, his three 
remaining brothers expelled from the city and murdered, 
and a chief of the city hurled to his destruction from 
the palace gates. Thus was the man who, to quote a 
recent historian,^ " epitomised the vices which flourished 
unchecked in Bokhara," borne through a sea of blood of 
his own making to the throne which he stained with 
his presence for a period of thirty- four years. 

The cruelty and depravity of his character is attested 

1 Professor E. D. Ross. 



by all who had occasion to come into contact with him. 
Thus the eccentric missionary, Dr WolfF, who had 
ample opportunity of forming an opinion, wrote that 
he delights to hear the people tremble at his name, 
and laughs with violence when he hears of their appre- 
hensions"; and he throws further light upon the matter 
when he quotes the remark of a Turkoman that " he 
(Nasrullah) drank the milk of a man-eater; for the 
Cossacks in the desert are accused of eating the bodies 
of dead men, and it is for that reason that he is such a 
bloodhound." It was an evil hour for Bokhara when 
the priests gave their sanction to the lust of their king, 
and from the day when the High Priest caused it to be 
cried from the house-tops that the king is the shep- 
herd : the subjects are the sheep. The shepherd may 
do with the sheep as he thinks proper ; he may take 
the wife from the husband, for the wife is the sheep of 
the king as well as of her husband, and he may make 
use of any other man's wife just as he pleases," he 
plunged into a career of reckless and indescribable 
debauchery. It is not surprising that such a monster 
of iniquity should be found indulging in his lust for 
blood up to the very last, or that the closing scene of 
his life should display the beheading of his own wife in 
his presence as he lay upon his deathbed. 

Such was the monarch, advised and assisted by his 
prime minister and brother in iniquity, the inhuman 
Persian, Abd us-Samad, into whose hands fell the luck- 
less Englishmen, Stoddart and Conolly. Despatched 
by the Indian Government to enter into negotiations 
with the ruler of Bokhara, they were treated as the 
basest of criminals. At length came the rumour of 
their death. Indignation at the callous behaviour of 
the Government ran high ; and when at length the 
already-mentioned traveller and missionary, Dr WolfF, 



came forward and volunteered to go in person to Bok- 
hara, he met with a ready support. The last authentic 
news of the condition of the missing officers was sup- 
plied by a letter from Captain Conolly to his brother, in 
which he stated that for four months they had no 
change of raiment, their dungeon was in a most filthy 
and unwholesome state, and teemed with vermin to a 
decree that rendered life a burden. Stoddart was 
reduced to a skeleton, and his body was covered with 
putrid sores." ^ It appears that the first rumours of 
their death were incorrect, though they were eventually 
taken from their cell and beheaded in the market-place 
some time later, and prior to the arrival of their would- 
be rescuer. " For the quietude of soul," wrote the rever- 
end doctor, " of the friends of those murdered officers. 
Colonel Stoddart and Captain Conolly, I have to observe 
that they were both of them cruelly slaughtered at Bok- 
hara, after enduring agonies from confinement in prison of 
the most awful character — masses of their flesh having 
been gnawn off their bones by vermin, in 1843." 

I have said that the evidence points to a dungeon, 
no longer existent, but which formerly stood within 
the walls of the citadel itself, as the scene of their 
confinement. Let me call to witness the Russian 
Khanikoff once more : " From hence to the right of 
the entrance [i.e., of the Ab-Khaneh in the ark] a 
corridor leads into another prison, more dreadful than 
the first, called the Kana-Khanah, a name which it has 
received from the swarms of ticks which infest the place, 
and are reared there on purpose to plague the wretched 
prisoners. I have been told that in the absence of the 
latter some pounds of raw meat are thrown into the 
pit to keep the ticks alive!" This, then, was the 
notorious vermin pit, and from Conolly's information 

1 Bokhara. Wolff. 



that " their dungeon was in a most filthy and un- 
wholesome state and teemed with vermin," and from 
Wolff's statement that " masses of their flesh had been 
gnawn off their hones by vermin" one is led to the con- 
clusion that it was in this loathsome hole that they 
dragged out the terrible days of their confinement. 
Whether it was in the one or the other, however, is 
after all a matter of small importance — the glaring fact 
remains that two British officers on official duty were 
foully done to death without so much as a protest 
being raised by the Government that had sent them 
to their doom ; and no amount of explanation, had 
explanation been given, could have wiped out the foul 
blot which must for ever cast a stain upon the annals of 
British government. 

I have written of Bokhara as I saw it, as any traveller 
would see it who chanced to visit there to-day, and I 
have recalled some of those stories which are insepar- 
ably connected with its name. I have made no attempt 
to give any comprehensive description of the town, or 
to enumerate its mosques and madressahs, or its baths, 
or its bazaars. All this has been done before, often 
and well, and any one who is desirous of detailed in- 
formation concerning them will find it in the works of 
men so well qualified to give it as Burnes, Wolff, 
Khanikoff, Vambery, Schuyler, or Lansdell, to mention 
but a few of those who have written upon the subject. 
Nor have I amassed statistics of its trade, for such 
trade is of little interest to Englishmen to-day. Once 
upon a time Bokhara enjoyed a trade to the amount 
of 3000 tons a-year with India, importing indigo, tea, 
and English manufactures along the trade-routes of 
Afghanistan,^ but the Transcaspian railway and — to 
make use of the most euphemistic appellation — a scien- 

1 All the Kussias. Henry Norman. 


tific tariff have altered all that. To-day there is no 
room for European merchants other than Russian in 
those countries which lie immediately north of the 
Pamirs or the Hindu Kush, where "Russian prints, 
calicoes, and cottons are successfully competing with 
the far more beautiful native materials, and hideous 
brocades from Moscow debauch the instinctive good 
taste of the East ! " ' 

^ Eussia in Central Asia. Lord Curzon. 





Samarkand one of the great cities of Central Asia — The vicissitudes through 
which it has passed — Timur's capital — Description of Timur — Samar- 
kand taken by the Russians — A brilliant episode — The buildings of 
Samarkand — The market square — A meal in the bazaar — The tomb of 
Tamerlane — The mosque of Bibi Khanum — The mosque of "the 
living king" — Ishak Khan — The end of the railway. 

Samarkand is the face of the earth : Bokhara the 
marrow of Islam : were there not in Meshed an azure 
dome the whole world would be merely a ditch for 
ablution," — which saying testifies to the honour in 
which were held the two great cities of Central Asia. 
For if Bokhara is one of the great names which ring 
through the history of Central Asia, Samarkand is 
assuredly the other, the fame of which, suffused with 
a halo of glory, comes echoing from a remote antiquity 
down the dim corridors of time. 

A large and flourishing city, with walls 70 stadia in 
circumference when it succumbed to the military genius 
of Alexander the Great, the victim of the wildest 
vicissitudes, it passed by fire and sword from one 
conqueror to another till, adorned and beautified as 
the capital of Timur, it reached the highest pinnacle 
of its magnificence. Alexander the Great, Seyid ibn 
'Othman, Harthama, Jengis Khan, Tamerlane, and 



Baber, — such are the names which stand emblazoned 
upon the victorious scroll of its conquerors. Small 
wonder, then, that though the day of its greatness is 
long passed, it should even in its ruin remain one of 
the most impressive cities upon earth. 

The journey thither from Bokhara is to-day one of 
the simplest things in the world. You step into the 
train at midday and you reach Samarkand, if you are 
lucky, some hours before midnight — how long before 
depending of course upon the punctuality or lack of it 
of your train. I arrived at 11 p.m., but then we had 
started two hours late. 

It is, of course, as the immortal capital of Tamerlane 
that you think of Samarkand to-day, because it is 
the ruins of the great mosques and madressahs and 
mausolea which he built, and which merit the appli- 
cation of the encomium of a Persian poet that " even in 
this broken state they are still better than 100,000 
intact ones," which are responsible for its world-wide 
fame. You may look upon a jumble of insignificant 
debris close by and be told that you are in the pre- 
cincts of the city of Afrasiab, that hero of ancient 
myth, " strong as an elephant, whose shadow extended 
for miles, whose heart was bounteous as the ocean, and 
his hands like the clouds when rain falls to gladden the 
earth," or you may pause for a moment to think of the 
Marcanda that fell to the hero of Macedon ; but when 
you stand before the great buildings which are the 
glory of Samarkand, it is to their renowned founder 
that your thoughts are inevitably recalled. 

Tamerlane, we are told, was a man of an inordinate 
ugliness, though enjoying, it would seem, as Cardinal 
De Retz says of De Bouillon, " with the physiognomy of 
an ox the perspicacity of an eagle." He was certainly 
lame, as his name suggests, — Timur leng, Timur the 



lame, whence our Tamerlane, — and he was blind in one 
eye. One day while being waited upon by the barber 
he chanced to catch sight of himself in the glass, and 
was so struck by his appearance that he began to weep 
violently, in which he was joined by his companion 
Chodscha. At the expiration of two hours the king 
ceased weeping, but Chodscha then began wailing in 
good earnest. Timur, surprised, demanded the reason 
of his renewed lamentation, to whom Chodscha replied, 
** If thou hast only seen thy face once, and at once 
seeing hast not been able to contain thyself, but hast 
wept, what should we do — we who see thy face every 
day and night ! " So say the Persians. It would seem 
from the above that, as the Persian poet Saadi once 
said of a compatriot, he was ''so ugly and crabbed 
that a sight of him would derange the ecstasies of the 
orthodox ! " In which respect he resembles another 
great monarch, who was so adverse to seeing his own 
likeness that he was at last unwilling that it should 
appear on his country's coins. Wherefore it is the 
two-headed eagle of Byzantium that is stamped on 
the rouble of Russia. 

But whatever can be said against Tamerlane on the 
grounds of his personal appearance, nothing can be said 
against his success as a conqueror or against his accom- 
plishments as an architect, whereby his city became 
one of the proudest in the world and the beloved resort 
a century later of the renowned Sultan Baber. 

The city fell into the hands of the Russians under 
General Kaufmann in May 1868, and was the scene of 
what has been described as being " one of the brightest 
and most glorious pages in all the history of the 
Russian advance in Asia." ^ A small garrison under 
Major Stempel, left to hold the city by General Kauf- 

^ Turkestan. Schuyler. 


mann, who had set out with the main army in pursuit 
of the Amir of Bokhara, found itself surrounded by a 
hostile force of 20,000 men from Shahrisabs. For five 
days, during which the greatest heroism was displayed 
by the beleaguered party, the position remained critical ; 
but at length the one messenger who escaped with his 
life out of seven who were sent, succeeded in apprising 
General Kaufmann of the desperate plight of the de- 
fenders. No time was lost ; the general returned post- 
haste with his troops, and the enemy were smitten hip 
and thigh. Thousands of prisoners, we are told, were 
massacred in cold blood, and the city was given over 
for three days to pillage. 

The city of to-day is, of course, not the city of the 
fourteenth century, when, embellished by its Tartar 
king, its glory was at its height ; but nevertheless, in 
spite of the vandalism of Usbeg and Turk, of the shock 
of earthquakes and of the Russian occupation, its monu- 
ments even in their ruin stand unique and whisper 
faintly of a greatness that is past. The most celebrated 
buildings are the three stupendous madressahs which 
form three sides of the Rigistan, — the noblest public 
square, according to Lord Curzon, in the world, — -the 
mosque of Shah Zindeh, the madressah of Bibi Khanum, 
the Chinese wife of Timur, and the Gur Amir, or tomb 
of Tamerlane himself. All these buildings originally 
were, and to a great extent still are, covered with a 
network of designs in brilliantly coloured enamel tile- 
work, presenting a picture of kaleidoscopic beauty in 
the flashing rays of an Eastern sun. 

The three madressahs above alluded to are known, 
as has been set forth by every writer upon Samarkand, 
as those of Ulug Beg the grandson of Timur, of Shir 
Dar the lion-bearing, and of Tillah Kari the gold- 
plated, and date from the years 1421, 1601, and 1618 



respectively. Their massive proportions and grandeur 
of design compel the gaze and burn a picture upon the 
tablets of the brain which can never be effaced. Grand, 
solemn, impressive, are the epithets they conjure up, 
and all round, in the space which they enclose, the 
thronging multitudes and noisy booths seem small, 
puny, inconsequent in comparison. 

Yet there is much that attracts here also, when the 
mind has had its fill of these enduring monuments, and 
can focus itself upon the trivialities of the present. 
Seated upon the ground in a corner of this colossal 
square was a specimen of that strange genus the story- 
teller of the East. As his voice rose on the still morn- 
ing air, a little crowd of long-robed gaudy-coloured 
humanity thronged round him, jostling one another, 
chattering trivialities, or listening wide-eyed to the 
speaker's tale. I listened, and, understanding not, 
took a surreptitious photograph (see illustration), and 
passed on. A cook-shop suggested food and refresh- 
ment. Was there any place where I could lunch ? 
Certainly not. I was pressed for time, and had not 
delivered my letters of introduction to Russian officials. 
What did that matter ? I was in Rome, and would do 
as Rome did, so I ate shashlik in the bazaar, alternate 
nobs of mutton and fat roasted on skewers, one skewer 
to each mouthful, and drank sherbet out of small incon- 
venient handleless bowls. It was all eminently in keep- 
ing with my surroundings, and I would not have had it 

I feel that I ought to say something about the other 
striking ruins of Samarkand, though it has all been 
said far better than I can say it many times before. I 
visited them all, of course : the tomb of Timur, the 
mosque of Shah Zindeh, the mosque and madressah of 
Bibi Khanum, and even a gigantic cenotaph at some 



distance from the city, reputed to mark the tomb of 
Daniel. I mildly suggested that it was Daniyal Bi, of 
the house of Mangit, who ruled over Bokhara in the 
eighteenth century that was meant, but was indig- 
nantly scoffed at, and informed that it was the prophet 

In the Gur Amir a vast slab of green jade stands in 
his memory on the floor above the vault, beneath which 
the last remains of the great Tamerlane lie. A great 
crack in the block shows where it was once cut in half 
by some avaricious khan, I was told, who expected to 
find treasure inside, though this desecration has also 
been attributed to Nadir Shah. The two pieces have 
been joined with cement ; but only two years ago the 
mausoleum was broken into once more, certain tomb- 
stones being carried ofl*, and the cenotaph of Timur 
itself, though not removed, coming in for rough 

The gigantic proportions of its arches and dome are 
perhaps the most striking feature of the great building 
which bears the name of Bibi Khanum, as is the ex- 
quisite tilework of the mosque of Shah Zindeh, the 
living king. This latter structure was raised by Timur 
in the year 1323 on the spot where one Kasim Ibn 
Abbas preached Mohammedanism, and was martyred 
1266 years ago. So at least said the Mullah in charge. 
There was a prophecy that he would appear to defeat 
the Russians when they came ; but, as Mr Schuyler 
remarks, *' Samarkand was occupied, and Shah Zindeh 
appeared not, so that his fame has of late somewhat 
fallen off." ^ Nevertheless, it is still supposed that 
Shah Zindeh will come again when the triumph of 
Islam shall have extended to the uttermost ends of 
the earth. 

^ Turkestan. Schuyler. 



Of quite another kind is the interest which attaches 
to Samarkand as the home of Ishak Khan, pretender 
to the Afghan throne, and compulsory guest of his 
Russian hosts. The feelings of the small party of 
Russian officers who were inspecting land on the Oxus 
banks at the time of the death of the late Amir Abdur 
Rahman Khan, himself a former refugee at the same 
city, must have been of a mixed description when the 
rumour reached them that Ishak had escaped. Happily 
the rumour proved untrue, and Ishak still lingers at 

Beyond here the railway penetrates to Andijan, in 
the heart of the cotton country, passing by Tcher- 
nayevo, Khokand, and Marghilan, and from Tcher- 
nayevo a branch runs north to Tashkent, the capital 
of Turkestan, and for the time being terminus of a 
railway which has played a part in the pacification of 
the wild peoples of Central Asia, the development of 
their country, and the consolidating of the Russian 
power, which may well surpass even the sanguine 
hopes of its enterprising promoter. 





A Russian capital in Asia — Old Tashkent — Its capture by the Russians — 
Railway projects — The Tashkent-Orenburg line — The Tomsk-Tash- 
kent line — Advantages of post-roads — Carriages purchased — Method 
of travelling — A post-house — Rate of speed attainable — The steppes of 
Turkestan — The life of the steppe — Tchimkent — The Chinese frontier 
— Through Semirechensk — The Siberian frontier — Monotony of travel 
— The character of the steppe borderland — Semipalatinsk — From 
Semipalatinsk to Barnaul — Reach Barnaul. 

When one speaks of Tashkent at the present day, one 
refers to a modern Russian town with a population of 
between 40,000 and 50,000, which has not yet seen its 
fortieth anniversary. Broad, airy streets, with channels 
of running water and avenues of tall poplar- trees, behind 
which rise rows of well-built houses and excellent shops, 
everywhere meet the eye ; while shady public gardens, 
an imposing-looking college, where, among other accom- 
plishments, the rising generation are taught the English 
tongue, and an excellent Government House, which has 
sheltered men with names writ large in the records of 
Russian expansion in Asia, and where now, beloved 
and respected by all around him. General IvanofF 
resides in his capacity of Governor-General of the 
vast district of Turkestan, further serve to apprise 



one that he has reached a capital and centre of 

Adjoining the modern town is the old Tashkent of 
100,000 inhabitants, close to which rise the earthern 
ramparts of the old fort stormed and captured by 
General Tchernaieff in 1865 — the ardent general hav- 
ing carefully omitted to read the despatch from Tsar 
Alexander II. forbidding him to attack the city until 
after he had captured it ! — and now occupied by Russian 
soldiers ; but, unlike Bokhara or Samarkand, it can 
boast of no historic buildings or mosques and madres- 
sahs of special note, so that, as I have said, it is of the 
chief town of a Russian province that one thinks when 
mention is made of Tashkent. For similar reasons there 
is little to be found there of any great interest for the 
traveller ; and after the best part of a week spent at 
the chief numera — the very moderate substitute for a 
hotel which is to be found in the chief Russian towns 
in Asia — owing to unavoidable delay in obtaining the 
conveyances necessary for my further journey, I was 
glad enough to take my leave of the capital and to 
start on my journey once more. I should, however, be 
guilty of gross ingratitude were I to fail to acknow- 
ledge before leaving the kindness and hospitality of 
the Russian officials whose acquaintance I was fortun- 
ate enough to make. Should these lines ever chance to 
meet the eye of the gentleman to whose genial company 
are due my pleasantest recollections of Tashkent, may 
he read in them the sincere, though wholly inade- 
quate, expression of gratitude of a wanderer in a 
strange land. 

For the present, unless you wish to return the way 

1 It may be of interest to the advocates of afforestation to learn that 
since the Russian occupation, when trees — poplars and Turkestan elms — 
were largely planted, the rainfall has increased by 250 per cent. 




jou came — i.e., along the Transcaspian railway — you 
must give yourself up to the tender mercies of the 
tarantass and the post-road. I say for the present, 
because the railways which Russia has built in Asia in 
the course of the last twenty-five years will ere long be 
increased by lines which will connect her vast terri- 
tories in Central Asia with European Russia on the 
one hand and with the great Trans-Siberian railway 
system on the other. 

The first of the two great lines of railway which she 
has in view is the Tashkent- Orenburg line, to be com- 
pleted by January 1 (14), 1905. Running north from 
Tashkent to Tchimkent, and thence north-west vid 
Turkestan to Orenburg, where it will join the railway 
system of European Russia, it will cover in all a dis- 
tance of 1600 versts, or 1056 miles. It will be seen 
that, in constructing this line, Russia is merely giving 
material shape to her original scheme of a railway to 
Central Asia, the project, that is, which was officially 
reported upon in 1873, and vigorously advocated by 
General Kaufmann, the Governor of Tashkent at that 
time, and which was taken up with feverish energy in 
the more grandiose guise of an overland route to India 
by the indefatigable de Lesseps, long before the present 
Transcaspian railway had even been thought of The 
large outlay which it was at that time recognised would 
be necessary to construct and maintain a railway across 
many hundred miles of unpopulated and unproductive 
steppe no longer appears to constitute an obstacle to its 
construction, while the objection to the line on the 
grounds of its becoming a damaging rival to the Ivans- 
caspian railway seems to have disappeared, or at any 
rate to have been overruled, since it is now well on the 
road to completion. The necessity of bringing water 
from a distance has proved a source of difficulty and 


delay at the Tashkent end of the line, where 130 
versts had been finished at the time of my visit, 
while I was informed that at the Orenburg end a 
distance of 200 versts had been completed and was 
ready for traffic.^ 

The second great line which is being discussed is 
that known as the Tomsk-Tashkent line, which will 
follow the direction of the post -road over which I 
travelled via Tchimkent, Verni, Semipalatinsk, and 
Barnaul, whence it is suggested that it should make a 
bend in order to take in the government coal and iron 
mines at Salaiire. From here a branch would be built 
to Kunetzsk, and the main line would have its junction 
with the Siberian system at the station of Polonosh- 
naya. It is not proposed, however, to embark upon 
this line until the Tashkent-Orenburg line is finished, 
when the Minister of Finance has promised the scheme 
his serious consideration. I may point out, that in 
addition to the obvious strategic importance of such 
lines, they will possess the further advantage of putting 
the valuable cotton -growing lands of Ferghana into 
close touch with the great corn-growing districts of 
Siberia,^ and then, when no apprehension need be felt 

1 A telegram from Orenburg at the end of June of the present year 
(1904) states that the navvying work on the section of the line linking 
the northern and southern stretches is approaching completion, and that 
900 versts of the line have already been successfully laid from the Oren- 
burg end, while 540 have been laid from the Tashkent end. Passenger 
trains run twice a- week from Orenburg to Aktiubinsk, and, adds the 
telegram, in a few days' time the railway will be opened to " commercial " 
trafl&c between Tashkent and Perovsk. 

^ The system of charges on Russian railways, whether for passengers or 
goods, is known as the zone system, which necessarily favours long journeys, 
the charges for long distances being relatively much lower than those for 
short ones. To such an extent did this system favour the corn-growers 
of Siberia, that it was found necessary, in the case of the Siberian railway, 
to break the tariff at Cheliabinsk, to prevent an outbreak among the 
farmers of the Volga basin, owing to the market being upset by the low 



on the score of famine, and the whole of the lands of 
Ferghana can consequently be given up to the pro- 
duction of cotton, Russia will be on the highroad to 
realising one of her ambitions — namely, to supply from 
her own dominions the whole of the increasing demand 
of those cotton factories which have sprung up in recent 
years to make Moscow a modern manufacturing city. 

Until these lines are built, however, recourse must 
be had to the post-roads to carry one over the huge 
expanse of steppe -land of Turkestan and Southern 
Siberia. Let me try and give some idea of what travel- 
ling on a post-road in Asia is like. 

First, if, as in my case, you have much baggage, it 
is advisable to purchase vehicles for yourself and your 
belongings. For any one travelling light these can be 
found at each post-station ; but if not, unpacking and 
packing up the baggage involves much trouble and 
delay, and it is better to have your own. I bought a 
tarantass and another cart of similar construction for 
£10 apiece, and, as I subsequently drove close upon 
2500 miles in them, consider that they were cheap at 
the price. The tarantass is not an ideal carriage for 
comfort, being possessed neither of seats nor of springs ; 

prices of Siberian corn. The system is explained by Vladimir in his 
' Kussia on the Pacific ' : — 

" The price of tickets on Russian railways is charged per verst only up 
to a distance of 300 versts ; greater distances are charged according to 

of 25 versts for distances from 301 to 500 versts. 
30 ri II 501 ti 710 I. 

35 .. It 711 II 990 M 

40 M II 991 II 1510 II 

For distances above 1510 versts, the zones are of 50 versts. Above 325 
versts the price of each zone is 20 kopecks third class, 30 kopecks second, 
and 50 kopecks first class. As the zones increase, the cost therefore rela- 
tively decreases : thus to travel 1000 versts (over 660 English miles), from 
1510 to 2510 versts in first, second, and third class, costs respectively 10, 6, 
and 4 roubles." 



but, like everything else, to get used to it is merely a 
matter of time. I frequently travelled day and night, 
and found that with a little practice I was even able 
to sleep tolerably well. 

The recognised method of travelling is with the 
troika — three horses abreast — and the charge is 3 
kopecks per horse per verst (a fraction over a penny 
a mile) in Turkestan and 1|- kopecks in Siberia, with 
an additional payment of 10 kopecks per horse per 
stage, as government dues. The post-houses exist at 
intervals of from 15 to 30 versts — say 10 to 20 miles — 
and are quite innocent of any attraction. A room with 
a screen or partition, behind which will be found a 
hard couch, or sometimes, at the larger stations, two 
rooms with bare whitewashed walls, form the accom- 
modation which awaits the traveller. A huge stove 
built into the wall is the feature of the furniture, the 
remainder being made up of a table, bench — sofa is too 
euphemistic a term — and two or three chairs. The 
bareness of the whitewashed walls is in every case 
accentuated by coloured prints of the Tsar and Tsarina, 
a photograph of the governor -general of the province, 
a few sets of rules and regulations in black wooden 
frames, and the inevitable ikon. Occasionally to these 
adornments was added an advertisement proclaiming 
the excellence of the MacCormick reaper and other 
agricultural implements manufactured by that company. 
In the rooms which form the remainder of the house 
live the postmaster and his wife and family. Nothing 
is obtainable except eggs, milk, and hot water — the 
samovar is found everywhere — and, unless you happen 
to arrive at a post-house when the postmaster is taking 
his daily meal of broth, you must live on tea and eggs, 
supplemented by such provisions as your forethought 
may have prompted you to bring with you. 



The rate of speed attainable varies according to 
circumstances. If you are a Russian official you travel 
fast, for both postmaster and driver stand in awe of 
officialdom, and you have preference over ordinary 
travellers in the matter of horses. One gentleman in 
an official position told me that before the days of the 
railway in Siberia he once travelled 1000 versts (660 
miles) in forty-eight hours ! And a lady, the wife of 
an official, travelled from Verni to the Chinese frontier, 
a distance of 237 miles, in thirty-five consecutive hours, 
while I was at Kulja. My own rate of speed, however, 
rose little above an average of 100 versts a-day, horses 
being scarce in parts, and long dreary waits at the miser- 
able post-houses frequent. Thus I find that I occupied 
thirteen days and two hours in driving from Tashkent 
to Kulja, a distance of 1224^ versts, or 808 miles, of 
which time 124|- hours were spent waiting for horses 
at various post-stations, including a wait of 17|- hours 
at Verni while my passports were undergoing exam- 
ination. Allowing a further average wait of an hour 
at each post-station while horses were being changed, 
meals taken, and, as was often the case, the convey- 
ances being repaired, I was on the move for 133|- 
hours, which gives an average speed while actually 
travelling of a fraction over six miles an hour ; this 
low rate of speed being due chiefly to the badness of 
the road and to the slow progress we made at nights. 
I remember reaching a post-station one evening with 
both carriages in urgent need of repairs. On arrival 
I immediately requested the postmaster to send for 
the blacksmith. " Very good," he replied ; *' I will 
bring him if he is not drunk ! I suppose he was — it 
was Sunday evening — as nothing was done till next 

The country which one traverses is possessed of a 



terrible monotony. Day after day the far-reaching 
steppes of Turkestan spread out their carpet of luxuriant 
grass before one, splashed here and there with patches 
of brilliant colour, formed by masses of poppies and 
magnificent tulips ; but it is only at long intervals, 
where a settlement has grown up round a post-station, 
that trees or houses appear to give any variety to the 
uninterrupted landscape. Ranges of mountains are 
always visible to the south, now nearer, now farther 
away — at first the Alexandrovski Mountains, and farther 
on the spurs of the Alatau ; and looking out to the 
right after passing Verni, you might imagine that you 
were gazing at the Grampians, until a glance to the 
other side dispels the illusion — there is no room in Scot- 
land for the endless expanse which here meets the eye. 

Sometimes you see in the distance collections of what 
you take to be trim little hay-cocks, until a nearer 
acquaintance apprises you of the fact that they are 
Kirgiz yurts, the curious tents of grey felt, stretched 
over wooden frames, in which these nomads live. At 
others you meet long strings of camels carrying away a 
whole village of yurts on their backs, a desire for change 
having prompted their owners to seek new lands and 
pastures for their flocks. Indeed, camels were the 
beasts most in evidence — they were even being used 
in the plough in one or two places ; but large flocks 
of sheep, droves of cattle, and herds of horses are 
also to be seen, though hardly in the quantities one 
would expect in so magnificent a pastoral country. 
In addition to the Kirgiz, one may see long lines of 
wooden carts moving along at funereal pace, or out- 
spanned by the roadside — Russian emigrants these, 
seeking new homes and fortunes in the East. 

After leaving Tashkent, the road runs north for a 
distance of seventy-six miles to Tchimkent, stormed by 



the combined forces of Colonels Tchernaieff and Veref- 
kin in the days of the Russian advance, and then turns 
east, passing through the small towns of Aulie Ata and 
Pishpek to Verni, now a considerable town grown up 
round the original fort constructed in 1854 between 
Lakes Balkash and Issi Kul, distant from Tashkent 509 
miles. The old fort still stands at Tchimkent, and 
made an impressive picture as I gazed at it in the grey- 
light of dawn from the vicinity of the post-house. 
There is a story of a curious mistake which led to its 
capture by the Russians. A soldier who had been 
slightly wounded at the beginning of the operations 
called out for the surgeon, " Dok-tu-ra." His comrades, 
hearing only "u-ra!" — the Russian hurrah — flung 
themselves to the assault, and carried the citadel with 
a loss of only five men.^ 

After leaving Verni the road turns north to the Hi 
river, which it crosses 555 miles from Tashkent, and 
then north-east into the mountainous country on the 
east of Semirechensk — the land of seven rivers. At 
Altin Imel, a small station 632 miles from Tashkent, 
the road to the Chinese frontier at Khorgos branches 
off, and after passing the frontier proceeds to the 
Chinese town of Kulja, 62 miles farther on, and 808 
miles from Tashkent. 

Of the chequered history in recent years of this 
remote appanage of the Son of Heaven," and of its 
present position, I shall have something to say in a sub- 
sequent chapter, omitting to do so now in order that, 
for the sake of convenience, I may here complete the 
sketch of my journey along the post-road. 

From Altin Imel, then, you travel on northwards 
through mountainous country for some distance, passing 
the small town of Kopala, a short distance beyond 

* See Schuyler's Turkestan, vol. ii. p. 75. 


which you emerge on to the level plains east of Lake 
Balkash. Here a stretch of sandy desert is crossed, 
where the various scrub and herb life which one learns 
to look for in sandy soil take the place of grass ; but 
after the zone of sand is passed the scene again pre- 
sents the same grass-covered treeless expanse which has 
accompanied you the whole way. The last town in 
Turkestan is Sergiopol, and 17 miles farther on, and 1003 
from Tashkent, the frontier of Siberia is reached. The 
next 160 miles, as far as the town of Semipalatinsk, 
are perhaps the most dreary of the whole journey, if, 
indeed, it is possible to discriminate in such a country. 
I often drove 20 miles at a stretch without seeing a 
sign of life beyond an occasional vulture soaring high 
overhead, or sitting brooding on a telegraph-pole, and I 
was consequently not in the least surprised to learn 
that the population of Semipalatinsk averages only 17 
to the square verst. The intense monotony of journey- 
ing across a country such as this can easily be con- 
ceived. As hour after hour went by, the quaint 
refrain of one of Whyte - Melville's songs thumped 
and hammered through my brain, keeping exaggerated 
time with the perpetual jolts and bumps of my crazy 
carriage : — 

" Next came the Moor-land, 

The Moor-land, the Moor-land — 
Next came the Moor-land, 

It stretched for many a mile." 

Substitute Steppe-land for Moor-land, and you have an 
exact presentation of the scene. 

The soil, as in other parts of the Siberian steppe 
border-land, varies from fertile black earth to sands, 
clay, gypsum, marl, and salt marshes, with a flora 
characterised by dwarf bushes, often thorny and some- 
times covered with grey foliage, dwarf almond, wild 


















cherry, hawthorn, and saxsaul, while among the her- 
baceous vegetation wormwood, willow-herb, feather- 
grass, and reeds are conspicuous. Agriculture is hope- 
lessly handicapped by the climatic conditions : want of 
rain and irrigation, the high temperature which is usual 
by the end of May, sand-storms which sweep across the 
plain in summer, and blizzards which devastate the 
country in winter. Industrial development in so thinly 
populated a country is naturally insignificant, and the 
rearing of live-stock, being the only form of husbandry 
to which the land is suited, forms the chief occupation 
of its people. So vast is the country and so scattered 
the population that one observes no great quantity of 
cattle as one travels through it, but, according to sta- 
tistics compiled a few years ago, there were upwards 
of three million head of live-stock in the Semipalatinsk 
district, of which more than half consisted of sheep, the 
remainder being made up of horses, cattle, camels, and 

At last a thin line of trees becomes visible, marking 
the course of the Irtish river, and the roofs and spires 
of Semipalatinsk rise on the horizon. After what one 
has become accustomed to for days, the town seems 
almost magnificent ; but its magnificence is comparative. 
There are a few good houses of brick, and the churches 
and cathedrals, with their whitewashed exteriors and 
green cupolas and gilded spires, produce a certain effect ; 
but the large majority of the houses are small and built 
of wood, and the whole population does not exceed 
30,000. The ground all round is flat and sandy, and 
the climate liable to be unpleasantly hot in summer 
and intensely cold in winter. 

The few shops are tolerably well supplied with 
European goods, thanks to the communication with 
Omsk on the Siberian railway afforded by the Irtish 



river, down which steamers ply twice a-week during 
the summer, when the river is not frozen. In the 
winter communication is maintained with the same 
place by a post-road 479^ miles in length. Alabaster 
is found near the town, and some years ago very rich 
beds of manganese were discovered not far off in the 
Arkalik Mountains, though this is but a small item of 
the vast mineral wealth that abounds in these remote 
dominions of the Tsar. 

North of Semipalatinsk I found the country much 
more populous, — large villages of log-built houses at the 
end of every stage and sometimes in between, trees 
growing in many places, especially along the river- 
banks, and the country altogether presenting a more 
promising appearance. I had in fact reached one of the 
most fertile tracts of Siberia, whose possibilities are 
enormous ; but let me at once say that I was not very 
greatly impressed with the settlers there. They struck 
me as being rude, uneducated peasants, — even the 
master of the post-horses could seldom read or write, 
a clerk as a rule being attached to the post-station for 
this purpose, — and hardly the stamp of men to found a 
colony. They may be a degree more enlightened than 
the Cossacks, who were the first settlers in these 
territories ; but that is not saying a great deal, and I 
do not think that there is much chance of the most 
being made of this country of magnificent possibilities 
by its present occupants. 

Three hundred and eleven miles beyond Semipalatinsk 
and 1542 beyond Tashkent stands Barnaul, the capital 
of one of the districts of the Tomsk Government ; but ' 
some account of this and of the adjoining districts of 
Biisk and Zeminogorsk, whose development is so in- ] 
timately connected with the Siberian railway, will be 
better reserved for another chapter. 





Yakub Khan — Internal disorder in Kulja in the 'Sixties — Eussian inter- 
ference — A ghastly holocaust — Keport of a Chinese official — Eussian 
assurances — Tso-Chungt-'ang, a Chinee of " great steadfastness of pur- 
pose " — The reconquest of Turkestan by China — Difficulties with Eussia 
— Gordon summoned — The treaty of St Petersburg — What Eussia 
gained — The position of Kulja to-day — Suidon — Kulja — Mineral 
wealth of the province — Tribes, sedentary and nomadic — Kirgiz and 
Kalrauk — The Chinese quarter — A visit to the Taotai — The future of 
Kulja — Eussian intrigue with Tibet. 

I MUST now retrace my steps for a moment to the 
Chinese province of Kulja. Like most parts of Central 
Asia, Kulja has enjoyed a chequered career, and has 
been the scene in modern times of at least its fair share 
of Eastern disorder and intrigue. While Yakub Khan, 
after raising his master to the throne of Khokand and 
then deposing him in his own favour, was parading 
himself before the Central Asian world in the character 
of the '*Athalik Ghazi" or "Champion Father," the 
seeds of dissension, which he had so successfully fos- 
tered, spread north of the Thian Shan, where, thanks 
to the juxtaposition of rival creeds and conflicting 
interests, the flame of rebellion was soon fanned into a 
very tolerable conflagration. 

The thread which runs through the tale of massacre 
and strife, which fills up the page of history devoted to 



Kulja in the 'Sixties, is to be traced in the antagonism 
existing between the Mohammedans and the Chinese, 
though often obscured, it must be admitted, beneath a 
cloud of intrigue and civil strife among the parties 
themselves, carrying with it its inevitable concomitant 
of bloodshed and atrocity. For a time the Russians 
preserved the attitude of interested spectators along 
the border-line of their recently acquired territories ; 
but the time at length came when it appeared to them 
that their turn for creating a diversion had arrived. 
Marauders were plying their trade along the borders 
with unabashed audacity, while the stormy petrel, 
Yakub Khan, was engaged in a promising war against 
the Dungans — the descendants of a race settled in very 
early times in the provinces of Han-su and Shen-si, 
Chinese in all save religion — of Urumtsi and Turfan, 
which would in all probability result in his eventual 
occupation of Kulja. So wrote the Russian officials, 
determined on acquisition, in a specious despatch to 
St Petersburg. 

An affray between a Russian outpost and a body of 
Tarantchis — Mohammedan natives of Kulja — presented 
an opportune excuse for an immediate advance, and in 
the course of eleven days an army of 4000 Tarantchis 
had been defeated, two cities occupied, the submission 
of the Tarantchi sultan accepted, and the capital en- 
tered by General Kolpakofsky. 

But the Tarantchis were determined upon one final 
holocaust, and, despite the proximity of the Russians, 
succeeded in drenching the grave of their supremacy in 
a veritable sea of blood. Enraged at the surrender of 
their chief, they fell upon the wretched Dungans and 
Chinese in the city and its neighbourhood, and massacred 
upwards of 2000 of them in the course of a single night, 
no less than 500 corpses being found next morning in a 



canal in the precincts of the city. The Chinese official 
Lu-tsu-han, in a report written for his Government, 
which fell, however, into the hands of the Russians, 
says : There were many instances that in lonely places 
they actually caught Mantchus and Chinese and killed 
them. Happily Heaven did not permit the human race 
to end. Now the leader of the great Russian empire, 
the Dzian-Dziun of Semiretch, with his army inspired 
with humanity and truth, has quieted every one. This 
petty foreign Power (Russia !) saved the nation from 
fire and water, it subdued the whole four countries 
without the least harm, so that children are not fright- 
ened, and the people submitted not without delight and 
ecstasy ! " ^ 

How vastly more entertaining would our own consular 
reports be, were they permeated by a similar sense of 
humour ! 

The Russian expedition was an undoubted success, 
and had, therefore, to be approved by the statesmen 
on the Neva, who were in reality far from pleased at 
these further acquisitions and consequent responsibili- 
ties. The Government at Peking were informed of the 
occupation, and assured of the readiness of the Russian 
Government to restore the province to its rightful 
owners, as soon as a Chinese force of sufficient strength 
to occupy and preserve order in the district should 

For once China showed herself capable of a deter- 
mined and wholly unexpected fixity of purpose. Tso- 
Chungt-'ang, the general to whom the task of reconquer- 
ing Turkestan was delegated, was a man, as Professor 
Douglas remarks, " of proved ability and of great stead- 
fastness of purpose." Before him stretched a dreary 
waste, dotted at distant and lonely intervals by small 

^ Schuyler's Turkestan, vol. ii. p. 188. 



oases ; beyond again lay Turkestan. With a contempt 
for time, which was as deHghtful as it was character- 
istic, but with an altogether unlooked-for tenacity, the ] 
general embarked upon his task. His soldiers became , 
husbandmen, the land was ploughed, seed was sown, 
and in due season crops were reaped, and the danger of 
famine thus averted — hey, presto ! the Celestial farmers 
became the soldiers of the green banner once more, and 
the expedition resumed its way. 

The result was a complete success. Urumtsi and 
Manas soon fell — not without hideous slaughter in the ! 
case of the latter : the notorious Yakub was compelled 1 
to fly : Aksu, Yarkand, Kashgar, and Khoten capitu- 1 
lated, and by the year 1878 the task of conquest had i 
been completed. j 

Seven years, however, had elapsed since the occupa- " 
tion of Kulja by Russia, who was no longer in a mood | 
to restore the lost property without ample remunera- 
tion, and a leisurely diplomatic duel ensued. A treaty ■ 
concluded at Livadia by the Chinese official Chunghou * 
— the same that had been sent to France in 1871 to 
apologise for the massacre of sixteen French sisters of , 
charity at Tientsin — so incensed the Court at Peking 
that it was immediately repudiated, and its unfortunate 
author handed over to the tender mercies of the Board 
of Punishments, while Gordon of imperishable fame was 
called in to lend the lustre of his reputation as stiffen- 
ing for a Chinese army to be hurled against the might 
of Russia. His mission was rendered abortive by hi 
repeated declaration on his way to the capital of his 
intention to induce China to make peace — the very last 
thing for which he had been summoned ; and eventually 
the question, after dragging its tedious length along 
the obscure channels of oriental diplomacy and intrigue 
found a solution in the treaty of St Petersburg, con 



eluded in February of the year 1881, with the assist- 
ance and advice of the British Government, by the 
Marquis Tseng. 

With regard to the treaty, it must be observed that, 
however much the authorities at St Petersburg may 
have declared themselves opposed to the action of their 
subordinates on the spot in 1871, and however loud 
their protestations of their readiness to restore the 
province to its rightful owners, they did not hesitate 
to make the most of the advantageous position in 
which they found themselves in 1881. The western 
half of the country remains Russian to this day. Nine 
million metallic roubles were paid by China for the 
restoration of the eastern half The towns in which 
Russia had the right of appointing consuls were added 
to, and the exclusive rights of navigating the rivers of 
Manchuria, accorded to the subjects of Russia and 
China by the treaty of Aigun (1858), were confirmed. 

The position of Kulja to-day — Chinese in name, 
Russian the moment it pleases her that it should be so in 
fact — is the natural outcome of the proceedings already 
recorded, which culminated in the above treaty. After 
crossing the frontier you very soon receive intimation 
of your having entered the dominions of the " Son of 
Heaven," for the road leads through a walled enclosure 
— the Chinese custom-house, where you dismount while 
a Chinese scribe traces incomprehensible hieroglyphics 
on your passport. Forty versts farther on you come 
to Suidon, once an important place as the seat where 
that high official the governor - general of Chinese 
Turkestan held court, and kept his soldiers and his 
guns and all his munitions of war. When the Russian 
came, however, and built his post-road and his Cossack 
post, Chinese exclusiveness rebelled ; but, being unable 
to oust the " foreign devil," retired a few miles into the 



wilderness and built a new Suidon, where he now 
reigns sheltered from foreign curiosity. 

The town of Kulja itself affords an unmistakable 
illustration of the status of the province. Russian 
reality is there in the shape of a Russian consul and a 
Cossack escort, a Russian post and telegraph office, and 
the insurmountable fact that half the inhabitants of 
the town are Russian subjects, while the dignity and 
prestige of the Son of Heaven are ostentatiously dis- 
played in the person of a Taotai or provincial governor, 
and the whole gamut of minor officials and hangers-on. 

I spent some days in the town of Kulja itself, and 
had an opportunity of seeing something of the sur- 
rounding country. The town is situated on the Hi 
river, which here flows through a broad and fertile val- 
ley enclosed by parallel ranges of handsome mountains. 
There is no doubt that these mountains are possessed 
of considerable mineral wealth. Coal is found not very 
far off, and is worked, as far as I could gather, in a 
desultory way by any one who feels inclined to go so far 
to gather his supply of fuel. I was also told by some 
of the nomad tribes that they found gold ; but this fact 
they kept sedulously hidden from the authorities at 
Kulja, for they said, " if the Chinese knew that there 
was gold in the mountains, they would make us work it 
for them, and we should never receive any of the profits 
for ourselves." As it is, when these nomads are in 
want of a little money, they send one of their number 
down to Kulja to dispose of a nugget of gold in the 
bazaar. If any questions are asked, the individual 
replies that his father has died and left him a family 
ornament (the gold) which has been in his family for 
generations, but which he is obliged to dispose of for 
want of funds. 

The population in the vicinity of Kulja itself consists 



chiefly of Tarantchis living in villages of mud houses, 
and resembling the Turkish races of Central Asia 
rather than the Chinese. In other parts — in the 
Tekkes valley, for instance, higher up the river — the 
population is composed exclusively of nomads, Kirgiz 
and Kalmuks, living in villages of felt tents. Both 
peoples are of Mongol origin and both lead the life of 
nomads, herding and pasturing their flocks ; but while 
the Kalmuks have retained their connection with their 
ancestors both in appearance and religion, the Kirgiz 
have drifted apart, disdaining to wear a pig-tail, and 
practising, in name at least, the precepts of the Koran. 

I had occasion more than once to spend the night in 
a Kirgiz or Kalmuk yurt, and found them exceedingly 
comfortable. I remember one in particular, the property 
of the headman of a Kirgiz village, which was an ex- 
cellent abode. Thick felts were spread on the ground, 
and warm carpets over these. On one side were couches 
of rugs and cushions, boxes containing the family pos- 
sessions, and the simple household utensils in daily use. 
In the centre, on the ground, blazed a cheerful fire; 
and opposite us, on the far side, huge hunks of horse- 
flesh were hanging from the roof My host possessed 
large herds of horses, amounting to 4000, while his 
father, who had died two years before, had at one time 
been the owner of as many as 10,000. I doubt if the 
remarks made by Stumm in description of the Kirgiz 
whom he met farther west, that " meat is only eaten on 
holidays and at banquets in the very severe cold of 
winter, or on an extraordinary occasion, when perhaps 
some old or maybe sick camel or horse is found in the 
camp which is of no further service for transport pur- 
poses," ^ would be applicable to the Kirgiz of Hi. One 
of the favourite drinks of these nomads, not only here 

* Kussia in Central Asia. Herr Stumm. 



but in parts of Siberia as well, is kumiss or mare's milk, 
which is supposed to be extremely nourishing and in- 
vigorating, and is considered very good, though I am 
bound to say that, speaking from personal experience, I 
should think that the taste, as far as Europeans are 
concerned, must be an acquired one. Another beverage 
is made by distilling milk, the result being a colourless 
liquid of no very pronounced or inviting flavour. 

The Kirgiz women were bright and hospitable, and, 
though Mohammedans, did not cover the face in the 
presence of a stranger, but, on the contrary, welcomed 
me and entertained me hospitably. Primogeniture 
appears to be unknown, but a system of tenure, some- 
what similar to that known as borough- English ^ is in 
vogue, the youngest son remaining at home, and at his 
father s death inheriting his fortune. 

To return to the town of Kulja itself. The race 
variety here is considerable. You may in the course of 
a single morning see Kalmuks and Kirgiz come in to 
make purchases in the bazaar ; Russians on oJQficial 
duty, Sarts and Tartar merchants in pursuit of trade, 
Chinese Mohammedans, and, lastly, the true Chinese, 
living together in one quarter of the town. Here you 
may stroll through the Chinese bazaar and see the 
Chinaman as he is. Little groups of pig-tailed in- 
dividuals are loitering about, eating odd messes at the 
cooking shops with still odder-looking chop-sticks, and 
drinking everlasting cups of tea. Huge streamers 
covered with strange hieroglyphics hanging in front of 
the shops tell of the goods to be obtained within — 
birds' nests and jelly-fish, and a hundred other delicacies 
dear to the Celestial soul ; trinkets and furs, and the 
huge spectacles of dark -coloured crystal afl*ected by the 
Chinaman, together with a heterogeneous collection of 
Chinese manufactured goods. 



Of course I called on the Taotai, or Chinese pro- 
vincial governor. Passing through gateways and court- 
yards emblazoned with representations of fearful demons, 
dragons, and antediluvian monsters of the most ap- 
proved type, I reached the hall of audience. I found 
the Taotai a delightful, fat, good-natured Chinaman, 
whose large round face was suffused with a perennial 
smile. Delicacies of all sorts were placed before us, 
which he of course ate with chop-sticks, though he was 
thoughtful enough to provide his barbarian guest with 
a two-pronged fork. Whenever any morsel, in any of 
the many dishes, struck him as being of specially en- 
ticing appearance, he seized it with his fingers and 
placed it on my plate — the high-water mark of Chinese 

Later in the day he returned my call. The procession 
was delightful. First walked a Chinaman in scarlet, 
holding up an enormous scarlet umbrella, the emblem 
of officialdom. Then came various retainers on foot 
and on horseback, clothed in scarlet and purple, with 
enormous soup plates embroidered on their backs ; 
and last came the Taotai himself, in the most extra- 
ordinary little Chinese cart, drawn, as is customary, 
by a mule. 

As to the future, Kulja has every prospect of remain- 
ing in statu quo for many years to come. Bussia has 
nothing to gain by an immediate advance in this 
direction, and, moreover, she was careful to see that 
the province was at her mercy before she withdrew 
under the treaty of 1881. The mineral wealth is there 
in the earth, and is likely to remain there, for China 
will most assuredly not develop it herself, and Russia 
has enough, and more than enough, undeveloped 
mineral wealth in Siberia and elsewhere to keep her 
occupied for many a year to come. There are, besides, 



other gateways into the land of old Cathay, which 
hold out greater attractions than does the road 
through Kulja. Mongolia is, no doubt, for the most 
part, a land of singular unattractiveness ; but the 
shortest and most direct and most practicable route 
from Russia to Peking lies across the level stretches 
of the Gobi Desert. Urga, the most important town 
in all Mongolia, is dominated by and permeated by the 
leavening Russian yeast, and plans and surveys have 
been made for a line from the Siberian railway to 
Peking via Kiachta, Urga, and Kalgan.^ To the 
south, again, the mystery - enshrouded highlands of 
Tibet hold out irresistible inducements to international 
flirtation and intrigue, and evidence has been sufiici- 
ently apparent of late that the Russian bear is by no 
means insensible to the charms of coquetting with the 
hierarch of the Mecca of Central Asian Buddhism. 
The mission from Tibet under the able guidance of the 
Siberian Buriat Dorjieff, which arrived at Odessa in 
October 1900, and was received by the Tsar himself at 
Livadia a short time after, cannot be regarded as a 
mere pleasure-trip, undertaken at the fancy of pleasure- 
seeking officials ; nor are the subsequent Tibetan mission 
to St Petersburg, bearing an autograph letter from the 
supreme pontiff of Lhassa to the Tsar of Russia, or 
the expedition of the Russianised Buriat, Professor 
Tsybikoff, to the Tibetan capital, or the fact that rifles 
bearing the stamp of the Russian Government factory 
of Tula were found on the bodies of the Tibetans who 
fell in the recent onslaught against the Indian political 

1 1 was informed by a Russian ofl&cial that the construction of this line had 
been decided on, the 850 miles through Mongolia from Kiachta to Kalgan 
to be built by Russia, and the remaining section from Kalgan to Peking 
by China. 



mission in the Chumbi valley, devoid of a distinct 

The southern regions of Chinese Turkestan, while 
as much probably at the mercy of Russia as the less 
important province of Kulja, have the supreme attrac- 
tion, not possessed by the latter, of lying in contact 
with the semi-independent States which border upon 
the Indian Empire ; and the possibility of controlling 
what Mr Chirol describes as " a great politico-religious 
organisation, whose influence can and does make itself 
appreciably felt all along the north-eastern borderland 
of India," is far more likely to appeal to the imagina- 
tion of the chauvinist statesmen of Russia than an 
advance into a part of the Chinese Empire which could 
scarcely be deemed either necessary or advantageous, 
as likely to lead, for the present at any rate, to any 
further advancement in a policy of territorial aggran- 
disement and acquisition. 

1 The following passage from Prince Ukhtomski's account of the travels 
of the Tsesarievitch in the East, is of considerable interest in this con- 
nection. Speaking of the Buddhists in Eussia he says : " Every year 
thousands of them go on pilgrimage to Mongolia and to the centres of 
Tibetan learning. Pioneers of Russian trade and Russian good fame, 
representatives of the Russian name in the depths of the yellow East, 
are these simple little men in their worn garments, with their shaggy little 
horses and their camels. These nameless natives march on to . . . the 
mysterious Tashe-Llunpo and the highlands adjoining India, with as much 
ease and briskness as we do in our suburban excursions. Everywhere 
this intelligent element . . . quietly bears into this Asiatic wilderness 
ideas of the White Tsar and the Muscovite people. . . . These sturdy 
travellers bear also the idea, vague as yet, that the Christian West is 
called on to regenerate through us the effete civilisation of the East. 
Scarce any one in Russia guesses as yet what a valuable work is being 
carried on by the modest Russian Lamaites, at a distance of hundreds 
of miles from the Russian frontier." 



"The days spent in the chase are not counted in the length of life." — 
Arab proverb, 

"They are the most voracious people of prey that ever existed. The 
more vigorous run out of the island to Europe, to America, to Asia, 
to Africa and Australia, to hunt with fury by gun, by trap, by harpoon, 
by lasso, with dog, with horse, with elephant or with dromedary, all the 
game that is in nature." — Emerson, English Traits, 



A sportsman's paradise — The way there — A lengthy bargain — To the 
Oriyaas valley — Magnificent scenery — A Kalmuk Nimrod — A 48-inch 
ibex shot — Stormy weather — An evil beast — Vengeance — A successful 
right-and-left — Marmots — The disappearance of an ibex — Its head 
secured — Extremes of temperature — The luck of ibex-shooting — A 
51|-inch trophy — Kalmuk characteristics — Another 50-inch head — 
Flooded rivers — Back to Kulja — Horn measurements. 

Far away in the heart of Asia, where remote Cathay 
holds shadowy dominion over nomad Kirgiz and 
Kalmuk, the waters of a great river roll placidly 
through a broad grassy plain. On either side fine 
ranges of mountains rise, and at their foot and along 
the river-banks small collections of yurts are to be 
found, the homes of Kirgiz and Kalmuk, who find 
ample pasturage in every direction for their flocks 
of sheep and vast herds of horses. They call both 
the river and the district Tekkes, though the former 
has a wider reputation under the name of Hi, which 
it assumes after taking a sudden turn in a direction 
from north - east to north - west, before it flows past 
Kulja, and on till it empties itself into Lake Balkash. 

But it is with one of its tributaries which race 
down from the mountains on the south-east that I 
am concerned in the present chapter. Of these there 
are several, each one of which flows through a land 
infested with game, the Geok Su or Blue river, 




the Kara Su or Black river, the Ak Su or White 
river, and the Oriyaas, up which I journeyed rifle 
in hand during the first half of June 1903. I 
believe there is no spot known to the European 
sportsman which can lay juster claim to the title 
of " sportsman's paradise " for the particular game 
it produces — the ibex, Asiatic wapiti, and Asiatic 
roe-deer — than the wooded slopes and grassy corries, 
the steep ravines and rocky precipices, which here 
abound in what may be described as the mountain 
pendants of the great central system of the Thian 
Shan. In the days of long ago, when Kashmir was 
first exploited by the sportsman, the sport obtained 
may have come up to that now obtainable in the 
Thian Shan, but I doubt if the barasingh ever car- 
ried so massive and heavy a horn as the Asian 
wapiti, or if there was ever the same number of 
ibex with heads equal to those which range the 
mountains in the vicinity of Tekkes. 

This land, like most lands of plenty, is a distant 
one, and cannot be reached without a considerable 
expenditure of time and forethought. Mr Church 
has given an admirable description of the long days 
of weary marching, even after the stupendous Him- 
alayan and Karakoram ranges are crossed, which 
await the traveller journeying hither from India. ^ 
From the west, however, far less difficulty is en- 
countered. Permission once obtained from the 
authorities at St Petersburg to carry rifles, the 
Transcaspian railway lands one at Tashkent in 
Turkestan, whence a post-road is available to Kulja. 
Allowing a month for the journey to Kulja, a delay 
there, varying according to circumstances, while ob- 
taining transport for the remainder of the journey, 
^ Chinese Turkestan. 



and from eight to ten days' caravanning to the 
upper reaches of the Oriyaas stream, and in from 
six weeks to two months after leaving London the 
sportsman will find himself camped in the cream 
of his shooting. 

The prospect of securing transport speedily at 
Kulja is dependent on the demand and supply of 
horses. There is a caravan route from Kashgar 
which passes by the town of Aksu over the Muzart 
Pass, and through Tekkes to Kulja, and it was 
from a caravan - bashi who had travelled up along 
this route that I obtained my ponies. I offered 
him twenty roubles a - month per pony — excellent 
pay, since after reaching the Oriyaas river they 
would have little to do except rest and grow fat 
on the rich pasturage on the river-banks. The man, 
however, was a true Oriental, and having ascer- 
tained that there were very few ponies in the 
town, promptly demanded thirty, finally, with great 
magnanimity, saying that as I was no doubt anxious 
to proceed without undue loss of time, he would clinch 
a bargain, and supply me with ponies at twenty-five 
roubles a-head per month. I metaphorically kicked 
him out of the house, and told him that he might 
come back when he came to his senses, when I 
might possibly still be willing to ofier him twenty 
roubles. He smiled and went, and the days passed, 
and any morning I might see him idling contentedly 
in the bazaar, but he made no attempt to renew 
negotiations. I think I knew all along in my heart 
of hearts the fatuity of any European attempting 
to compete with an Asiatic in a game of waiting ! 
The keep of his horses cost him nothing, — indeed 
they lived sumptuously on the luxuriant vegetation 
of the Hi valley, — his last journey had brought him 



sufficient means for subsistence for many days to 
come, and rather than climb down from the position 
he had taken up he would, I am convinced, have 
waited with absolute complacency until either des- 
titution or the crack of doom constrained him to 
move. I, unfortunately, had not the unlimited time 
at my disposal which he appeared to have, and at 
the end of a week I bowed to the inevitable, gave 
him his twenty-five roubles, and proceeded on my 

There is, of course, no bridge over the Hi river — 
Why should there be ? the Chinaman would probably 
ask — and the same inconvenient ferry-boat which has 
somewhere been aptly described as a " muddy box," 
and which has been handed on from prehistoric times 
of the past, to continue in all probability to a cor- 
responding period in the future, is the only means of 
getting across. From here, striking south-east, we 
crossed the spur of mountains rising between Kulja and 
Tekkes, and on the evening of the fifth day reached the 
Hi once more and halted for the night in a yurt put at 
our disposal by the headman of a Kalmuk aoul (village 
of yurts). Here a day's halt was necessary while en-^ 
gaging Kalmuks as guides and hunters, and buying a 
small flock of sheep to drive along with us for our food- 
supply, for the Oriyaas valley is uninhabited ; but on 
the last day of May I reached the gorge where the 
river escapes from the mountains, and, crossing a low 
ridge, found myself at the foot of the mountain valley. 

I wish I could give a description even approaching 
the reality of the extraordinary beauty of the scenery 
through which the Oriyaas flows. Photographs may 
give the outline, but they cannot reproduce the wonder- 
ful colouring, to which is perhaps to be chiefly attributed 
the extraordinary charm of the view. The river's source 



must be looked for among the primeval ice and snows 
of the innermost recesses of the Celestial Mountains, 
but after leaving the frozen world of its birth it flows 
through a perfect garden of delight, the grassy lawns, 
planted here and there with picturesque clumps of fir- 
trees, which line its banks resembling rather the neat 
slopes of artistic and well-kept pleasure-grounds than 
the untrimmed reaches of a natural wild. From the 
green levels of the river-banks steep mountains rise on 
either side, carpeted with grass and flowers, and in many- 
parts well wooded with many kinds of bush and hand- 
some fir, while above the line of trees weird crags and 
pinnacles of rock protrude, throwing a sharp serrated 
outline against the sky, and above all glistens a pure 
white roof of eternal snow. As one turns each fresh 
corner in one's onward march a new vista of beauty 
opens out, combining in a single picture the wild 
beauty familiar to those who have roamed among the 
mountains on the west coast of Scotland, the wooded 
magnificence of Kashmir, and the jagged outlines which 
are so conspicuous a feature of the rugged Taurus 
Mountains. I have seen many scenes which have im- 
pressed me more with a sense of forbidding grandeur, — 
the stupendous cone of Persian Demavend, the colossal 
mountain masses on India's north-west frontier, the 
extraordinary mountain labyrinths of Baltistan, and 
above all, perhaps, the unequalled spectacle which 
meets the eye as one gazes up at the gigantic peaks 
reared aloft in every direction round the Bunji plain, — 
but I can call to mind no prospect which has satisfied 
the eye with quite the same sense of content as the 
varied loveliness of the Oriyaas valley. 

The hunters of the country are the Kalmuks, like the 
Kirgiz a race of Mongolian origin, but one which has 
better preserved its type. Like the Kirgiz, too, they 



live in villages of grey felt tents, but, unlike the former, 
who are Mohammedans, are Buddhists by religion, their 
priests or lamas easily recognisable by their scarlet 
and yellow robes. Their features are of the true Mon- 
golian type, with little hair upon the face, while they 
wear the orthodox Chinese pig-tail hanging far down 
their backs. Among the Kalmuks of Tekkes was one 
who, like Nimrod of old, was " a mighty hunter," and 
so great was his reputation in this respect that, though 
usage among the Kalmuks demands that the younger 
shall serve the older, men of greater age than he would 
unhesitatingly obey him in the chase. I was not sur- 
prised, therefore, to hear that he was away hunting in 
the mountains ; but luck was with me, for he too had 
selected the Oriyaas valley as his hunting-ground, and 
on June 3 I ran him to ground, and secured his services 
during the time that I was shooting. My quarry was 
of course the ibex, since the horns of the wapiti, like 
those of the red-deer, do not reach a state of perfection 
until August or September. Not so with the Kalmuks. 
Their hunting is for existence, not for sport, and by an 
unlucky chance for the persecuted stag, the medicinal 
property of the unformed horn commands a high price 
throughout China, — as much as ten roubles (over 21s.) 
a pound, — so that during the months of June and July 
he is hunted and pursued with relentless perseverance. 
A fixed salary, however, and the promise of a present 
for every big head that fell to my rifle, was sufficient 
temptation to induce Nurah — the Kalmuk Nimrod — to 
leave for a time the less certain occupation of hunting 
wapiti ; and having engaged two other Kalmuks, Hoh- 
Hah and Jergol, to make themselves useful on the 
hillside and in camp, I lost no time in trying my luck 
after ibex. 

As already stated, the sport obtainable is of the best, 


and in thirteen days' actual shooting I accounted for 
fifteen ibex, among which were some magnificent heads. 
Let me take a day or two's sport at random from the 
pages of my diary. 

June 4. — Leaving camp early in the morning we 
rode up the right bank of the river, spying the steep 
mountain-sides above us as we went. Before long we 
came to a turbulent mountain torrent which hurled 
itself down a bed of rock, and, like the waters at 
Lodore, came " dashing and flashing and splashing and 
clashing" till it tumbled headlong into the channel of 
the main stream. High up on a steep mountain-face 
overhanging this turbulent torrent, sparsely covered 
with low bushes, but plentifully with long slippery 
grass, we saw a herd of ibex, and among them more 
than one carrying horns, which appeared through the 
glass to be of enormous size. Tying up the ponies, we 
proceeded to climb up the rocky banks of the stream, 
crouching along under cover of the low bushes with 
which it was fringed. While thus engaged I made 
more than one discovery : first, that the Kalmuk hunter, 
unlike the stalker on a Scotch deer-forest or the shikari 
of India or Kashmir, has no sort of idea of burdening 
himself with your rifle ; and, second — a far more dis- 
agreeable surprise — that nothing will induce him to go 
hunting without his own rifle on his back, a fearful 
weapon, with long forked attachment as rest, which, 
as he crouched along in front of me, was continually 
threatening to disgorge one of my eyes ! 

At length, after much patient crawling over rock and 
boulder, we succeeded in putting a ridge between our- 
selves and the herd, and were able to assume an up- 
right position once more, and to take a breath before 
starting on the steep ascent in front of us. Half an 
hour's struggle up a steep mountain-side covered with 



long slippery grass, which made climbing very arduous, 
brought us level with the ibex, and worming our way to 
the top of a ridge, we found ourselves in an excellent 
position a bare hundred yards from the nearest beasts. 
I selected my animal while Nurah crawled up close 
behind me, and as soon as he turned broadside, fired. 
Immediately there was a loud report in my ear, and I 
turned round to see the Kalmuk's rifle smoking within 
a foot of my head ! Two ibex lay dead on the ground, 
and when I came to measure them I found mine had 
a splendid head of just over 48 inches, while Nurah's 
carried a horn of 42 inches. I found it was quite 
impossible to prevent Nurah shooting when in sight 
of game, so came to an arrangement with him by which 
he agreed not to shoot until I had had my shot, and 
then not to fire at the big ones. This he was quite 
willing to do, since the horns were of no value to him, 
and he only cared about the body and the skin, the 
former of which he ate, and with the latter of which he 
clothed himself 

I was agreeably surprised to find that there was no 
necessity for very early starts in the mornings. I have 
vivid recollections when shooting in the Himalayas of 
being dragged reluctantly out of bed in the grey light 
of dawn, when dawn broke at 4 a.m., and sometimes 
before, to begin clambering up the mountains by the 
dim light of the paling stars. But here I seldom left 
camp before 7 A.M., and never before 5 A.M., since 
the amount of snow lying on the mountains deterred 
the ibex from seeking the seclusion of the distant and 
often inaccessible rocks which rose above the woods and 
grassy corries of the lower slopes. Indeed, though it 
was June, the weather was a strange mixture of summer 
and winter. There was nearly always a sharp frost at 
night, and heavy storms of rain, turning to snow, at 



sundown were common. On the night of May 26 the 
thermometer registered 13° of frost, and from 6° to 8° 
was the usual amount during the first half of June. 
From the 4th to the 11th we experienced frightful 
storms, which came on every afternoon with clockwork 
regularity, lasting well on into the night, and leaving a 
covering of snow even down in the valley bottom where 
we were camped. The variations in the temperature 
were violent in consequence. From early morning to 
noon, when the snow- clouds began to gather, the ther- 
mometer would rise steadily. Then, as soon as the sun 
was obscured, and snow and rain came driving down 
the mountain-sides, down would come the mercury with 
a jump, falling 70° or 80° in half as many minutes, and 
readings such as I find I have recorded on June 14, 
when the thermometer stood at 26° Fahr. early in the 
morning, and a few hours later in the sun at 1 1 2°, were 
common. The winter, no doubt, had been an unusually 
late one here, as it appears to have been throughout 
Asia, and when I left the upper reaches of the Oriyaas, 
early in the third week of June, bushes and shrubs were 
only just breaking into bud. 

On June 5 I explored the ground up a tributary 
stream to the south, and saw ibex on the hills on 
either side. Much of the ground is excellent stalking- 
ground, which is as well perhaps for the sportsman, 
for the ibex is no fool, and takes excellent precau- 
tions against surprise, a fact of which I was afforded 
evidence on this occasion. I was climbing up one 
side of a steep ravine, well out of sight of the herd 
I was after, when suddenly on the sky-line opposite 
us appeared a pair of horns. We — Nurah, Hoh-Hah, 
and myself — dropped to earth where we were, and 
watched anxiously while the animal came slowly into 
full view, while it stood like a statue gazing down 



towards the valley below. We were constrained to 
remain motionless too, in a most irksome position, 
and when, after standing like stone for a quarter of 
an hour, the evil beast lay down where he was, the 
situation became acute. A fragment of rock was 
grinding into my back, a stone was gradually be- 
coming loosened under pressure of my foot, and, be- 
fore long, precisely what I was expecting came about 
— the stone gave way, and went rumbling down the 
hill with those aggravating resounding bumps which 
rolling stones delight in when one is particularly 
anxious to avoid attracting attention. I grabbed at 
the nearest rock to prevent myself following in its 
track, and the author of this unfortunate situation 
sprang to his feet and came racing like a beast pos- 
sessed down towards the valley bottom. 

That was where he made a grave mistake, because it 
brought him within easy range of three exasperated 
men, two of whom happened to be carrying loaded 
rifles. I fired, and Nurah fired, six cartridges I think 
we expended between us while you could have counted 
ten, and a whoop of savage triumph rent the air as he 
tottered and then fell headlong, the mangled remains 
of what a moment before had been a joyous living ibex. 
Does it sound ugly now this tale of wilful wicked tak- 
ing of life ? I admit it, it was a desire for vengeance, 
cruel, vindictive vengeance, that actuated me, for, truth 
to tell, I knew full well his horns were not worth the 
powder expended on them. Perhaps it was Nurah 
who fired the fatal shot, and maybe he is happier 
where he is, roaming the ghostly mountains of some 
wild Valhalla, where ibex ghosts delight to be. 

Later in the day fortune favoured us, for we came 
across a herd towards evening grazing in a grassy 
hollow quite unsuspicious of danger lurking near. The 



stalk was not a long one, for we were above them when 
we saw them, and within an hour of the time when I 
started after them I had secured a right-and-left — two 
fine heads of 46 and 49 inches respectively. 

A day or two later I moved farther up the Oriyaas 
stream. All along the river-banks that curious little 
rodent the marmot swarmed, sitting bolt upright over 
his hole, uttering his weird, shrill little note, and dis- 
appearing like a jack-in-the-box whenever we approached 
too close. Once Nurah made out the tracks of a big- 
wapiti, and went nearly mad with excitement until I 
told him he could go and try his luck after it. He 
went off towards dusk and spent the rest of the night 
in the gloomy depths of the forest, but no success 
rewarded his efforts. 

A day or two after this I had a most exciting stalk 
in wild rocky ground, where, in a long past geologic 
era, some convulsive spasm of nature had torn great 
rents and thrown up odd excrescences. Grass grew 
here where it could, and trees and bushes seemed to 
find foothold in the rock itself, and ibex revelled to the 
utmost in projecting crags and sheltered hollows. They 
were there on this occasion, a dozen beauties, and off 
we went to circumvent them. The climb was steep, as 
is generally the case when a big ibex is at the other 
end of it, and an hour had passed before we found our- 
selves in a position to crawl up for a shot ; but so far 
all was well, for they had not moved from the spot 
where we had first caught sight of them. 

I crawled flat to the top of a little ridge, and straight 
below me, at a distance which I judged to be 200 yards, 
stood a fine beast, while others were lying down or 
cropping grass close by. I held my breath, pressed the 
butt hard against my shoulder, and then fired. The 
usual confusion which follows a shot ensued. Ibex 



were springing up in all directions, disappearing and 
reappearing among the crags and boulders through 
which they picked their way. The beast I fired at 
sprang high in the air and then vanished, as though 
the earth had opened and swallowed him up. A hoarse 
Shot ! " from Nurah (this was his one word of Eng- 
lish) set me wondering whether he wished to convey 
the idea that I had shot the beast or that I should 
shoot again. Taking it for the latter, to be on the 
safe side, I drew a bead on another beast, which ap- 
peared bewildered and undecided which way to go, and 
pressed the trigger. Shot ! again came from close 
behind me, and this time there was no doubt what was 
intended, for I saw the beast fall dead myself 

Certainly one head, perhaps two, — not so bad for one 
morning, I thought. But things were not quite so 
bright as they had seemed, for when we reached the 
fallen beast which I had brought down with my second 
shot, we found that he had a horn of little more than 
40 inches, and number one was nowhere to be found. 
I went up to the spot where he had been standing, and 
found myself on the very brink of a yawning chasm, 
which gave seemingly into the bowels of the earth, 
whence there issued a rumbling of subterranean waters. 
Climbing a short way down the side, I peered into the 
abyss below, and after becoming accustomed to the 
darkness, made out with the aid of my glasses a pair ox 
horns, wedged evidently between two rocks in the very 
middle of an angry torrent, whose waters roared and 
hissed, and threw up great jets of foam as they raced 
through a tunnel to the open mountain-side beyond. 

The horns had all the appearance of being very large 
ones ; but their size remained a matter of conjecture — 
for the time being — for not even a Kalmuk would 
trust himself unaided into the swirling cauldron far 



below. Nothing, therefore, remained but to return to 
camp, and to devise some means for securing the dead 
beast on the morrow. This was soon decided on, and 
early the following morning we returned to the scene 
of our stalk, provided with ropes. The ibex was still 
visible, wedged between the same two rocks, and 
making the rope secure round the Kalmuk Jergol, we 
let him down hand over hand into the gulf below. 
Once safely down he found foothold among the rocks, 
and having succeeded in cutting off the head, signalled 
to us to hand it up. This we did, and immediately 
afterwards pulled up Jergol, landing him safely on 
terra Jlrma once more. 

There was much excitement when I drew out the 
tape to measure the horn, one and all who had gazed 
at it while it remained safely out of reach declaring 
that it must be well over 50 inches. I laid the tape, 
carefully counting the inches as it reached towards 
the tip, forty-four, forty-five, forty-six — and a half! 
Exclamations of incredulity burst forth all round, but 
the tape could not lie, and 46j inches was the utmost 
that it would concede. So the great head, which I had 
dreamed about all night, and which had been rescued 
at the expense of so much difiiculty and trouble, turned 
out after all to be not so very great, and to fall short 
by 3|- inches of the limit which constitutes a really 
good head for the Thian Shan. 

The middle of June was now fast approaching, much 
ground still remained to be covered before my pro- 
gramme of Asiatic travel was completed, and though 
I should be sadly disappointed at having to leave 
without carrying a 50 -inch trophy away with me, I 
decided that two more days were the most that I could 
afford to give up to the attempt to secure one. As 
Joseph lucidly remarked, " If git, git ; if not git, not 



git, can't help," which being interpreted meant, if we 
^ot one, well and good ; if we did not, we had at any 
rate done our best, and there was no help for it.-^ 

I started early on the morning of the 1 4th, while the 
thermometer still stood 6° below freezing-point ; but 
the cold soon changed to heat, for the sun shone 
fiercely from a cloudless sky, and the mercury had 
mounted to 112° (Fahr.) before I returned to camp. 
We rode along as usual, Nurah in front, myself and 
another Kalmuk behind, — all clinging to our stout 
little ponies as they struggled up the steep mountain- 
sides, or scrambled down to the depths of some inter- 
vening ravine, our attention constantly occupied in 
preventing our saddles from slipping off over our 
ponies' tails, or precipitating us unawares over their 

Suddenly Nurah slid off his pony as if he had been 
shot, and I pulled mine on to his haunches in an 
endeavour to do likewise. The ponies were dragged 
down into a hollow, and Nurah pointed excitedly 
down into a corrie in front of us, whispering " Tekke " 
(ibex). Sure enough we had stumbled almost on top 
of a small herd of males, lying quietly on a steep 
sloping hillside before us. It was all very sudden and 
unexpected, but there we were, actually within shot 
of them ; and a few seconds later an ibex was lying 
dead to the first shot, and another was moving slowly 
off, evidently damaged somewhere by the second. I 
ran to intercept him farther up the ravine, and ten 

1 For the benefit of the uninitiated I must point out that whereas there 
would in reality appear to be very little material difference between a horn 
which measured 49^ inches and one which measured 50 inches, the paltry 
half-inch does, as a matter of fact, in the eyes of any one who has gone in 
for collecting trophies, constitute a vast and insufferable gap ! To have 
shot a 50-inch ibex is to have achieved a success with which the slaying of 
a 49^-inch beast could never compare ! 



minutes later was fortunate enough to bring to bag the 
much-coveted 50-inch head. 

It was a fair illustration of the luck connected with 
ibex - shooting. To begin with, we had dropped on 
them quite accidentally, and then the beast carefully 
selected as the largest, which fell to the first shot, 
proved to have a horn of only 43|- inches, while the 
second, picked out hurriedly as the herd moved off, 
turned out to be a far finer beast, carrying a horn of 
5 If. The first bullet, which seemed to daze him, I 
found imbedded in the horn. 

Nurah and the other Kalmuk were gleefully happy, 
and laughed and shouted with delight as they cut up 
and skinned the two beasts, and then they loaded 
them upon the ponies and carried them down to a 
sheltered hollow, and were soon giving material proof 
of their satisfaction. A fire was lighted, a cooking- 
pot and a large chunk of green brick tea produced — 
most things necessary for Kalmuk life were generally 
to be found strapped somewhere on one of the ponies — 
and the marrow-bones thrown on to the embers to 
roast. This savoury repast finished, they betook them- 
selves to the joy of chewing nahs, a compound of 
powdered tobacco and ashes, expectorating thoughtfully 
on the ground at brief intervals in emphasis of their 
appreciation. Chewing nahs is a habit which appears 
to be pretty general among the tribes of Turkestan, 
and frequent expectoration a necessary part of the 
practice. A Kalmuk expectorates at all times and 
under all circumstances indiscriminately, whether he 
be in his yurt or in the open ; wherefore, when I called 
my hunters to my tent for consultation, they had to be 
content with sitting outside. 

It was quite early, but we had done well enough 
for one day, and after the marrow-bones had all been 



picked clean, and the horns and skins had been tied on 
to the ponies, we made our way back to camp. 

Fortune is proverbially a fickle goddess, but she 
smiled on me during these last two days of my sporting 
expedition, for having vouchsafed to me a 5 If -inch 
ibex as narrated above, she was further pleased to 
bestow upon me another 50-inch head on my last day's 
shooting. Two 50-inch heads in the last two days, after 
having spent the previous eleven in fruitless endeavour ! 
It was all very satisfactory, and every one was pleased, 
more especially when I doled out bricks of tea and bags 
of nahsy of which I had laid in a stock at Kulja, to 
celebrate the successful termination of the trip. 

On June 16 we struck camp and started on our 
return march down the Oriyaas valley. The melting 
snows had converted all the streams into foaming 
torrents, which raced angrily over uneven rocky beds, 
making it difficult and sometimes even dangerous for 
the baggage - ponies to cross. By marching at very 
early hours, however, while frost still held their source 
in check, we reached the Tekkes plain without mishap, 
though even here, despite its comparatively sluggish 
flow, the river was a power not to be despised. We 
crossed successfully in the ferry, our ponies, freed from 
their pack-saddles, swimming across after us ; but a 
body of Kalmuks who happened to be crossing at the 
same time were not so fortunate — one of their ponies 
being drowned while struggling against the current. 
The mishap, however, appeared to please them rather 
than otherwise, for the body was fished out of the 
stream lower down, and the last I saw of them they 
were making a hearty meal ofi^ the sodden carcass ! 

On June 23, exactly one month after leaving, I 
marched back into Kulja. A more enjoyable sporting 
trip it would be difficult to imagine, and the time will 




be far distant when memory fails to recall the pleasant 
camps, the magnificent scenery, and the grand sport 
which I enjoyed among the rock- crowned peaks and 
the smiling valleys of the Thian Shan. 

The measurements of my seven best heads were as 
follows: 51f, 50, 49^, 481 47^, 461, and 46 inches; 
the length of the six record heads, either picked up or 
shot, recorded up to the present time in Mr Rowland 
Ward's standard work on horn measurements being 
56f (picked up), 56 (picked up), 54f, 54f (picked up), 
.and two of 54 inches each. 





The Altai — Mr Ney Elias observes numbers of large horns — Major 
Cumberland's expedition — The way to the Altai — Time occupied by 
the journey — Expense — Kosh-Agach — Nature of the country — My 
Kalmuk hunter — The "Happy Valley" — A depressing day — Eam» 
sighted — A wounded ram — My first head — A move into Mongolia 
— A big ram in view — Ofiicious females — Nature's spell — A desperate 
race — A terrible disappointment. 


My earliest recollections of the Altai are associated^ 
with a small book called, I think, * Geography without 
Tears,* or some equally deceptive title, wherein it was 
laid down that the chief mountain-ranges of Asia were \ 
the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, and the Altai. There 
may have been others included in the list, but these 
are the three that impressed themselves on my 
memory. Subsequent reading confirmed the accuracy 
of this information, for I learned that the Altai high- 
lands embrace a superficial area of something approach- '; 
ing 144,140 square miles, or, to give a better idea 
perhaps, " the Altai," as we call it, is a vast highland 
plateau, intersected by numerous mountain-ridges, into 
which you would have no difficulty in getting nine or 
ten Switzerlands. When, therefore, I am asked if I ^ 
have seen the Altai, I reply with some diffidence that I 
have seen some small portion of that country. I have 




other rather vague memories concerning the Altai : 
that there is a theory that here was the cradle of the 
human race ; that here, in the heart of the mountains, 
old Tubal Cain forged his swords and his ploughshares ; 
and that, at any rate, whatever grounds there may be 
for such surmises concerning prehistoric times, there is 
no doubt whatever that here, buried in the bosom of 
the earth, almost fabulous mineral wealth awaits the 
pick and spade of the prospector. 

It was not, however, with pick and shovel that I 
travelled to the confines of Mongolia. Thirty years 
ago an intrepid traveller, whose name is a widely 
known and honoured one in political circles in Asia, 
Mr Ney Elias, travelled through China and Siberia, and 
observed, among other things, the number of large 
horns of the great wild sheep of Mongolia which lay 
rotting along the banks of the streams in the valley 
bottoms and on the steep shaley hillsides which it 
frequents. Little came of it at the time ; but twenty 
years later a well-known sportsman, Major Cumberland, 
came across Mr Ney Elias, and hearing from him of 
the possibilities of the Altai from a sporting point of 
view, immediately made arrangements for an expedi- 
tion there, and in 1895 an English sportsman found 
himself, for the first time, rifle in hand, in search of 
wild sheep on the bare highlands of the Altai. From 
various causes few trophies rewarded his first efforts ; 
but a second expedition the following year was crowned 
with success, and resulted in the arrival in London of 
the horns of wild rams which were described by Mr 
Rowland Ward as the finest he had ever seen. Such, in 
brief, is the history of the discovery of the Altai as a 
sporting country, and it is needless to say, perhaps, 
that other sportsmen were not slow to follow in the 
footsteps of the pioneer. Prince Demidoff has devoted 


a whole volume to an account of an expedition under- 
taken in company with Mr Littledale, and I could name 
a dozen other sportsmen who have shot there on vari- 
ous occasions since 1895. This, however, is not far off 
the sum-total, and the head of a first-class Ovis Ammon 
is in all probability at the present day one of the rarest 
trophies to be found among the museums and private 
collections of horns in Great Britain.^ 

And now, how to get there will probably be the first 
query of the curious sportsman. Those who have 
serious thoughts of undertaking an expedition will 
probably invest in a copy of Prince Demidoff's * After 
Wild Sheep in Mongolia and the Altai,' ^ or of a more 
recent work by Major H. G. C. Swayne, entitled 
' Through the Highlands of Siberia,' published since my 
return, which will supply him with all the information 
he will require, and I need do no more than briefly 
indicate here the means at present available for the 
use of travellers. A choice of routes, then, is open as 
far as Moscow, which may be looked upon as the start- 
ing-point of the expedition, since here is the terminus 
of the great Trans-Siberian railway, along which it is 
necessary to travel for the next 3391 versts to Ob, on 
the river of that name. No difficulty need be appre- 
hended thus far, and, indeed, travelling on the Siberian 
railway may be described as journeying with a maxi- 
mum of comfort at a minimum of expense. From Ob 
steamers ply frequently to Barnaul, capital of one of 

^ I distinguish between the wild sheep of Mongolia, which I believe to 
be the true Ovis Ammon, and the wild sheep of Tibet (0. Hodsoni), usually 
miscalled the Ammon. 

2 Published by Rowland Ward. The reduction of versts to miles is some- 
what inaccurate. For instance, I find on page 36, " 1 50 versts, or about 
120 miles." Now, since a verst is '66 of a mile, it is obvious that 150 versts 
cannot possibly be more than 100 miles. This is an error, however, which 
the sportsman will easily correct for himself. 



the seven divisions of the Tomsk government, and 
thence on to Biisk, the chief town of another district, 
where the river must be left and recourse had to 
wheeled conveyance. There are good shops at both of 
these places, where ordinary stores — such as jam, 
biscuits, and a certain assortment of tinned goods — are 
obtainable, though, for my own part, I prefer always 
bringing such goods with me from London. From Biisk 
there has been a post-road for many years as far as the 
village of Onguidai, a distance of about 250 versts, and 
for the last two years the Russian authorities have been 
engaged in constructing a road for small light carriages 
from Onguidai to the frontier at Kosh-Agach, a dis- 
tance of another 250 versts, which was almost com- 
pleted when I left the country at the end of August 
1903. I must warn the traveller, however, that the 
Biisk -Kosh-Agach post -road differs from other post- 
roads in Asiatic Russia in that there is no fixed tariff 
for the hire of horses, — government horses not being 
obtainable by the ordinary traveller, — and he will find 
himself in the unenviable position of having to pay 
whatever is demanded by the peasants owning horses 
at the various villages on the way. Between Onguidai 
and Kosh-Agach the country is inhabited only by 
Kalmuks, living scattered widely in yurts, and it is 
advisable to hire horses at Onguidai for the whole of 
the remainder of the journey. Once at Kosh-Agach 
there only remains to engage pack-ponies and Kalmuk 
guides or hunters, and to make a day's journey into 
the mountains to the south, to find oneself on one's 

Time occupied by the journey? Well, three days 
from London to Moscow, a day or two there according 
to fancy, and five days on to Ob — say from ten days to a 
fortnight to the end of the railway. Three or four days 


by steamer to Biisk, and a day or two there to make 
arrangements for the road, brings the total up to from 
sixteen to twenty days ; and if you do not waste too 
much time bargaining for horses on the road, another 
four days will take you easily to Onguidai. A day or 
more may possibly have to be spent here while securing 
horses to Kosh-Agach, which can be reached in from 
five to eight days, according to the state of the road 
and whether you decide to drive or take pack-ponies. 
If you have not a great deal of baggage, I would re- 
commend wheels as the quickest. This brings the 
total time from London to Kosh-Agach up to, roughly 
speaking, a month. 

Expense ? That is a question which I would not 
venture to advise upon. You might be back in London 
in three months from the time you started, having 
accomplished your trip for £250 ; but you might, on the 
other hand, have spent £500, — expenditure is so largely 
dependent on personal idiosyncrasy, as well as on a 
whole host of minor circumstances.^ This, then, must 
suflSce for my duties as a guide. 

I have said that the horns of the Ovis Ammon make 
one of the rarest trophies obtainable at the present 
day ; I might also add that the beast that carries them 
is about the most difficult animal to stalk successfully 
that I have ever come across. This shall be my excuse 
for describing a few days' sport of my own ; and lest I 
render these pages tedious with an unduly lengthy 
description of the country, I will omit all account of my 
journey there, and begin at once at Kosh-Agach, close 
to the scene of action. For a week I had been marching 
through magnificent mountain scenery, where dense 

1 Major Swayne gives much useful information concerning outfit, expense, 
&c., in an appendix to his book. He there works out the expenditure on a 
three months' trip in detail, arriving at a total of £256. 




forests of fir and cedar clothed the hillsides, and grass 
and wild-flowers grew in riotous profusion ; and when 
one morning I emerged from a wooded valley along 
which the river Chuya worms its way, and was con- 
fronted by the Kosh-Agach plateau, the change of 
scenery came as a shock. Tree-life ceased abruptly, as 
though a line had been drawn beyond which Nature 
dared such things to pass ; a bleak uninviting expanse 
stretched away to the east, and all round bare brown 
hills filled in the view, recalling the triumphant sterility 
of Tibet. This first impression was a little misleading 
it is true, for a closer acquaintance revealed the fact 
that the lower slopes of these hills are covered with 
grass and a mass of gorgeous wild-flowers ; but above 
the zone of grass and flowers rise cones of black and 
brick-red shale, which at a little distance fill the eye 
and stamp the impress of their horrid nakedness upon 
the whole surrounding. 

The settlement of Kosh-Agach, consisting of a few 
wooden houses built by merchants trading with Mon- 
golia, a wooden church and a custom-house, has no 
attraction of itself ; and as soon as pack - ponies and 
Kalmuk hunters were engaged, I hastened into the 
mountains to the south, pitching my tents on the even- 
ing of the second day at the foot of an odd detached off- 
shoot of the main range called "Tuzzi" or *'the chest," 
close to the junction of the streams which flow down 
valleys called Chagan Burgaza and Bain Chagan. 

Every sportsman knows that feeling of keen anti- 
cipation which assails him when, after many days of 
monotonous journeying thither, he at last finds himself 
in the land of his desire. Excitement at the pos- 
sibilities of the morrow, fear lest after all the quarry 
may not be there, a still more disagreeable reflection 
that if it is he may get a shot and miss ! combine to 


produce a sensation which is almost too keen to be 
pleasant. At 4 a.m. the following morning I was up 
and dressed, and before 5, when the sun was just 
casting his first rays over the tops of the mountains 
above my camp, I started, followed by two Kalmuks 
— one, reputed a cunning hunter, to accompany me 
when game was found, the other to hold the ponies, 
— for we always started on horseback. A Kalmuk 
would never dream of going anywhere on his own legs 
when he could make his pony do their work for them, — 
that, he says, would obviously be foolish, wherein he 
undoubtedly shows a certain practical common-sense. 
It must be admitted, however, that here his common- 
sense stops short : in general a block of wood would 
be a mass of intelligence in comparison, and there- 
fore, lest by any possibility I do him any injury in 
railing at his obtuseness, my hunter shall rejoice in 
a fictitious name, and Pombo he shall be to the end 
of the chapter. 

This, my first day after the great wild sheep, was 
not encouraging : it was worse, it was gloomily de- 
pressing. I started up the Bain Chagan, DemidofFs 
" Happy Valley," and searched it from top to bottom, 
and when I reached the watershed went on over the 
shaley slopes which overlook Mongolia ; but there was 
nothing in the least degree felicitous about it on this 
occasion, for not a sign of a beast did I see, and passing 
on along the summit of the ridge I returned by the 
Chagan Burgaza, reaching camp once more, tired and 
dispirited, at 7 p.m., after a futile fourteen hours in the 

Pombo looked wise when I consulted him as to what 
was to be done on the morrow, said we would start up 
the Bain Chagan again and take a turn over the hills 
to the east instead of the west as we had done to-day. 



What did he think of our chances of finding game 
there ? Well, he thought we might see something, 
though, of course, on the other hand, we might not. 
Of course I could have told him that much myself, and 
I did tell him he was an ass — I was not in a very good 
temper — which he of course did not understand, so he 
smiled idiotically, and then betook himself to his tea 
and his slumbers. 

The next day was a great day, because on it I secured 
my first ram. It was not a big one, quite a moderate 
head in fact, measuring only 42 inches ; but I was wildly 
delighted when I secured it, all the more from having 
to put up with much anxiety, which at one time turned 
to despair, before becoming finally possessed of it. 

We had seen four small rams moving slowly across 
the heights on the eastern side of the valley, and I had 
been examining them curiously through the glass, for they 
were the first I had seen, but I soon realised that they 
were very small, — far too small to be worth shooting, — 
and was beginning to wonder if to-day was going to be as 
yesterday, when Pombo suddenly exclaimed Koshkhor! 
— the native name of the ram. I jumped up and hur- 
riedly scanned the hillside, and sure enough there, far 
away close to the horizon, was a herd of rams. I could 
not make out if there were big ones or not, they were 
too far off, but Pombo said there were, so off we went. 
We were successful in getting above them ; but for 
some reason, just when we were starting to crawl into 
sight for a shot the whole herd bolted, and I had to 
take a snap-shot at the nearest flying beast. I heard 
the welcome thud which tells of a bullet gone home, 
and ran on to the spot where the beasts went out of 
sight ; but when I got there, search as I would, no 
dead sheep was to be found. Presently a dark red 
stain caught my eye, and then ensued one of those 


stern-chases which so often end in failure. Over end- 
less piles of shale we tracked the wounded beast, until 
at last the sun sank behind the hills in the west, and 
the chill shadow which enveloped the land sank deep 
into our own souls as we made up our minds that 
we must return home without him. 

One of the Kalmuks led the ponies slowly down 
the hill, while I and Pombo walked on, intending to 
join them lower down the valley. Suddenly, half an 
hour later, just as we were scrambling down to the 
valley bottom,, Pombo quite unexpectedly stumbled on 
the tracks of the wounded beast again, and at the 
same moment I heard a rattling of stones, and looking 
up saw the wounded ram just on the other side of a 
narrow valley in front of us. I threw up the rifle, 
pushed up the 200 yards' sight, fired, and brought him 
down, all before Pombo had time to realise what I 
was doing ! And that was how I secured my first 
pair of horns. It was a fortunate shot in more ways 
than one, for when I got back to camp I found that 
the man whom I had sent off the day before to buy 
sheep had not returned, and we had literally exhausted 
our supply of meat, the last bone having just been 
boiled down to make soup for dinner. 

Another futile day on the Siberian side of the frontier 
decided me to change my quarters and make a move 
into Mongolia. Accordingly, having issued instructions 
for camp to be moved across the watershed and pitched 
on the banks of a stream at a spot known to the 
Kalmuks, I started off across the mountains to the 
south. It is fortunate that a benign Providence has 
decreed that man remain in ignorance of what awaits 
him. Had I foreseen the disappointment and exaspera- 
tion which was awaiting me I should probably never 
have started on that particular day's sport, but have 



rested content with plodding along in the wake of my 
pack-ponies. Certainly I should not have been in the 
high spirits that I was. To enjoy hunting wild sheep 
to the full you must be possessed of a whole host of 
virtues — endurance, good temper, an inexhaustible stock 
of patience, perseverance, and an unlimited capacity 
for putting up with disappointment. I do not say 
that I possess these qualities, I merely remark that 
this is the equipment which the hunter ought to have. 
Eut to return to the story. 

We had toiled all the morning and seen nothing, and 
I was looking disconsolately round through my field- 
glasses when my attention was arrested by something 
moving on a distant sky-line. I was not given long to 
examine it, for it disappeared almost immediately ; but 
the sight of a beast at all was enough to encourage us, 
and off we went up the steep shaley hills in front of us, 
clinging in various attitudes to our stout little ponies, 
till we reached a small hollow near the summit, where 
we left them and proceeded on foot to examine the 
ground that lay before us. Nor did we have to go 
very far, for after creeping across the bare hill, and 
crawling a little way down the far side, I became 
aware of the presence of a beast lying down straight 
below me. As I put my glass on to him, I felt 
my heart begin to thump against my ribs with sup- 
pressed excitement. I was gazing at a magnificent 
ram not more than a few hundred yards away from me. 
It was the first really big ram I had seen, and through 
my powerful Zeiss glasses he appeared to be almost at 
my feet. However, the immediate question of the 
moment was how to get within shot. A careful survey 
revealed the presence of three more rams, all lying 
down, and we were worming our way with infinite 
caution and patience down towards them, when sud- 


denly four officious females stalked slowly into sight, 
and stood complacently surveying the scene, two 
hundred paces beyond the rams. Here was a horrible 
dilemma. The rams were beneath us, just visible when 
we craned our necks upwards to their utmost extent, 
but the females were in full view, and commanded the 
situation, for to move either backwards or forwards now 
would be to court instant detection. 

It would be useless to try to give any real idea of 
the next two hours, for it is only the hunter who has 
tasted the joys and the bitter disappointments which 
assail him as he pursues his occupation amid the soli- 
tudes of a great lone land who can know the depths to 
which his feeling can be stirred, and no description 
is required to add to the picture which he himself will 
conjure up. As the sun slowly approached his cradle in 
the mountains of the west, an intense silence fell upon 
the earth, and the spell which Nature always weaves for 
the mortal who is fortunate enough to find himself alone 
with her came irresistibly upon me. Even the restless 
females at length gave themselves up to the peace of 
their surroundings, and lay down where they were, 
while observing the precaution of fixing their gaze each 
in a different direction. For an hour I lay in one 
position, scarcely daring to move lest I should disturb 
the stillness which reigned, and then a small bird flew 
down and perched on a stone close by. He looked at 
us, hopped a little nearer, and looked again. Then he 
tapped on a stone with his beak, and the tap, tap, tap 
sounded curiously loud to my strained senses. But his 
curiosity was quickly satisfied, for he soon flew away 
again, and when he was gone an unbroken silence 
enveloped us once more. Once or twice one of the 
sheep got slowly up, stretched himself, nibbled lazily at 
some infinitesimal blade of grass, and perhaps moved a 



few paces before scratching at the earth preparatory to 
lying down again. 

In the meantime the sun had sunk far down behind the 
mountains, casting long shadows towards the darkening 
east, and at length the patience of Pombo had reached 
its limit. He pointed to the west and shook his head, 
and then he dragged his hand along the ground, and 
nodded towards a slight depression twenty yards away. 
I nodded acquiescence, and we started, worming our 
way painfully after the manner of the serpent, and 
removing every stone that might become displaced. At 
last we reached our goal, took one last look at the 
recumbent sheep, and then crawled laboriously back up 
the shallow depression till we regained the hill- top, 
whence we had started two hours before. Then I ran, 
with the blood thumping through my veins, and my 
breath coming in short sharp gasps, for I was racing 
against time, and our chance lay in reaching the cover 
of a ridge which ran down on the opposite side of the 
hill to that by which we had tried to make our first 

We reached the friendly cover, and Pombo raised his 
head, slowly at first, and then less cautiously. I re- 
leased the safety-bolt of the rifle, and raised myself 
«lowly too. Pombo stood upright, gazed right and left, 
s>nd then looked back at me. I saw disgust, hopeless 
and unutterable, written on every feature. " What is 
it ? " I said. He picked up a handful of dust, tossed it 
in the air, and watched it float slowly away in front of 
us. " The wind," I said. Pombo disdained an answer, 
turned, and walked slowly back towards the ponies, 
and began leading them dolefully down the hill. I 
sat down and groaned. For two mortal hours had I 
crouched within 300 yards of four magnificent rams, 
unable even to cover them with my rifle. And then. 


having with much labour crawled out of sight once 
more, I had made one wild desperate rush to get round 
them, reached my goal, and looked from behind my 
cover, to see — nothing. For not a sign of a living 
creature was to be seen ; rams and ewes alike had 
vanished as completely as if the earth had opened and 
swallowed them up, and the day which had begun so 
brightly ended in a dreary dismal ride in the dark over 
the miles of execrable ground that lay between us and 





A gazelle shot — Pombo's obtuseness — A long stalk — A flat crawl — An 
anxious wait — A big ram wounded — Pombo's jubilation — A 57-incli 
horn secured — A long ride in the dark — Ammon plentiful — A pack 
of wolves — Cold — A 55-inch ram shot — A right-and-left — Chase after 
a wounded ram — Stupidity of Kalmuks — The wounded ram brought 
to bag — Preparations for leaving the country — Horn measurements^ 
— Smuggling — Reach the Siberian railway. 

With my move into Mongolia my bad luck soon came 
to an end. I sent a man off with my Chinese passport, 
a gorgeous foot or more of decorated parchment, to the 
nearest frontier guard, a movable institution that lived 
in a yurt, and having obtained permission to wander 
where I would, and the services of a Mongol fighting 
man as a witness of my being under official protection, 
marched along the foothills on the Mongolian side of 
the range, halting for two or three days at distances of 
ten or twelve miles, and shooting over the mountains in 
the vicinity of my camp. 

Here and there on the lower ground I came across 
large herds of gazelle, and shot a fine buck one day, 
while on another occasion I had a desperate hunt after 
a huge wolf, without, however, succeeding in bringing 
him to bag. Still, big rams seemed difficult to find, 
and when found, still more difficult to approach, and I 



began to wonder if the fears which so often assailed me 
were destined to come true. But a great day was 
coming, one of those red-letter days which stand 
out so clearly in the life of a sportsman. 

It was the 13th of August, and the sun was just 
rising in a cloudless sky as we left our quarters on the 
banks of a tiny stream. But there was that hard cold 
look in the heavens which tells that you need expect 
no warmth from the dazzling sun, shine he never so 
brightly, and ere long a wind swept over the bare 
bleak hillsides, which made progress against it a severe 
effort, and chilled the blood in our veins, till feet and 
hands became numb, and the teeth chattered with the 
cold. We toiled long and hard and saw nothing, and 
at length at one o'clock, as I sat shivering under the 
lee of a rock, making the most of the slices of cold 
gazelle which made my lunch, Pombo crept up to me, 
and after shaking his head pointed repeatedly in the 
direction of camp. The temptation was great, to hurry 
back to the shelter of our tents ; but I had been look- 
ing round, and through my glasses had just caught 
sight of a herd of rams. 

I pointed in their direction. Pombo gazed blankly, 
and then, "Stones," he said. "Koshkhor" (rams), I 
answered. Pombo shook his head, took my glasses, and 
stared into vacancy. " Koshkhor," I said again. He 
looked at me, wavered, and then, MalinJca" (small). 
Our means of carrying on a conversation intelligible to 
both parties were limited — a few words of Russian, 
English, and Kalmuk, and a large assortment of gesticu- 
lations. Bolshoi" (big), I maintained. Pombo re- 
fused to give way, so I took matters into my own 
hands, tethered the ponies in a hollow, — the other 
Kalmuk was not with us, — and signed to Pombo to 
follow me. 



It was a long weary way before the rams could be 
approached, for the wind drove me to the top of a range 
of shaley hills, along the summit for about a mile, and 
then down again, above the spot where I had last seen 
them lying. To make a long story short, I found my- 
self, at the end of about two hours, in a fairly favourable 
position ; and, after taking a thorough survey through 
the glasses, began crawling carefully on with a view to 
the final approach. But the end of my stalk was by 
no means at hand, for five minutes later what should 
happen but that the sheep should get suddenly up, 
stretch themselves after their siesta, and then rush 
helter-skelter down the mountain-side across the valley 
bottom to some low foothills on the far side, where they 
proceeded to graze on such scanty herbage as succeeded 
in maintaining a precarious existence among the stones. 

I heard a hoarse demoniacal chuckle behind me, 
and turned round to see the Kalmuk's ugly saturnine 
countenance at full grin. That decided me. I be- 
came desperate, and determined at all costs to be 
even with him. Putting a ridge between myself and 
the rams on the far side of the valley, I ran down 
to the bottom, where I was confronted with a flat 
open space, half a mile across. The case certainly 
appeared hopeless ; but a little lower down I noticed 
a shallow gorge in the valley bottom, where a 
stream flowed down the mountain - side into the 
main stream in the middle. That, at any rate, 
would take me half-way across if it afforded suffi- 
cient shelter. Shall I ever forget the crawl along 
that stony water-channel ? It was shallow, so shallow 
that I had to follow the tactics of the serpent, wrig- 
gling but a yard or so at a time, and keeping my 
glasses fixed on five busy heads, lying like a log 
whenever one of them was raised suspiciously from 




the ground. It passed unnoticed at the time, but 
I observed, when it was all over, a dozen bleed- 
ing cuts on hands and knees. Somehow I reached 
the main stream, where a fairly high bank allowed 
a few minutes' rest in an upright position, and 
then peering anxiously over the top I saw the 
five big rams still grazing quietly about a quarter 
of a mile from me. 

But more satisfactory still was the fact that they 
were grazing slowly away from me, and that im- 
mediately in front of them rose a low ridge, so 
that, provided they continued in their present 
direction, they must soon pass out of sight, and 
so give me a chance of covering the few hundreds 
of yards of open ground which still lay in front 
of me. Pombo, who had been left some way be- 
hind, now came up, and seeing how near I was to 
getting a shot, forgot his " I-told-you-so " attitude 
— he got a bonus on every big head which I secured 
— and became as keenly interested in the proceed- 
ings as I was. How slowly the beasts moved ! 
And evening was fast settling down. Sometimes a 
blade of grass would catch the eye of one of them, 
and he w^ould turn back to crop it, causing a delay 
of several precious minutes. At last, however, the 
summit of the ridge was reached, and they began 
moving out of sight on the far side. For some 
minutes the last of them stood gazing round on 
the crest, but once satisfied he too went on, and 
the way was clear. Now was my chance ! I pulled 
myself together, climbed out of the river-bed, and 
then ran; ran as though my life depended on it, 
across those few hundred yards of flat, stony, cover- 
less ground, till I was on the very ridge which the 
rams had just crossed. A moment to get breath, 



and then — but all thought of the next step was 
instantly banished. A pufF of wind or the sound 
of a falling stone reached the still invisible rams, 
and the next moment they were streaming back 
across the valley. 

The first shot brought one down. Malinka'' 
hissed Pombo, and I aimed again. But now they 
were travelling fast, and try as I would I could 
not cover one. The hoarse bark of a wolf came 
from behind me. The rams hesitated, pulled up 
for a second, and looked round. I had the 300 
yards' sight up, and fired at the leader, a grey- 
haired beast with a massive head. He went on 
for a few yards and then sank down, while the rest 
disappeared up the mountain-side. Pombo shrieked 
a triumphant war - whoop, and nearly spoilt every- 
thing by dancing a wild fandango across the valley 
bottom and half-way up the hillside opposite, for, 
as I soon discovered, the beast was very far from 
being dead ; and after capturing the Kalmuk and 
subduing him by threats of summary justice with 
the butt-end of my rifle, I proceeded to make a 
careful stalk after the wounded beast, and was 
lucky enough to get up unobserved and give him 
a death - shot at six o'clock. 

He was a magnificent beast, with a perfect horn 
57 inches along the curve, and 20 inches in cir- 
cumference at the base. But there was no time 
to waste, for night was upon us, and camp was 
a long way off. I sent off Pombo to fetch the 
ponies from the hollow where we had tethered 
them, and occupied the interim in skinning and 
cutting up the beasts. By the time we had loaded 
up the horns and turned our heads towards camp 
it was quite dark, and for the next two hours 



we picked our way at funereal pace over ground 
which it was often as much as I cared to do to 
ride over in broad daylight. But what did that 
matter while I had a 57-inch ammon head tied on 
at the back of my saddle ! What did it matter if 
I did not reach camp until ten o'clock, after 15|- 
hours of toil over mountains of shale ! The joy 
which it is given to the hunter to know is deep, 
and I was tasting it to the full. I even abstained 
from railing at Pombo for trying to persuade me 
to turn back early in the day ! 

It would be easy to dwell at length upon every 
stalk which I enjoyed during my sojourn in Mongolia, 
for the details of every one are all burned deep into 
my memory ; but it would be as tedious for my readers 
as it would be easy for me. The ammon are plentiful, 
and big heads are far from being scarce, though owing 
to the bareness of the ground they are difficult to ap- 
proach. The extraordinary weight of the horns of an 
old ram seems to be a handicap in the race for life, a 
fact which the packs of wolves which frequent the 
country no doubt thoroughly appreciate. I came across 
a regular Golgotha one day, many of the horns being in 
excellent preservation, and carried off a horn measuring 
58 inches from among them. Looking round through 
my field-glasses I lit upon a pack of wolves on a hill- 
side not far off, and counted no less than eleven in 
one place. No doubt it is largely due to the presence 
of these beasts and to their carnivorous tendencies that 
the rams are always so much on the alert and so sensi- 
tive to the presence of danger. 

Camp -life is pleasant enough, if you are not averse 
to a little cold, for except for occasional snowstorms — 
which, however, are indescribable while they last ! — 
I found the climate fine and dry. The cold in the 



winter must be intense, for on August the 17th, 18th, 
19th, and 20th the thermometer registered 22°, 19°, 
7°, and 15° of frost respectively, and I observed on 
the first of these days that it was freezing 15° while 
I was partaking of breakfast. I was fortunate enough 
to secure another ram on that day, with a very fine 
head measuring 55 inches and 20 inches in circum- 
ference, though I came across him quite by accident 
when starting to stalk a herd which I had spied some 
distance away. 

A more exciting and even more satisfactory day was 
the 20th, on which I was lucky enough to secure a 
right-and-left, both rams carrying horns over 50 inches 
in length ! Not, however, before I had passed through 
some anxious moments. The first ram fell dead to 
the shot, struck at the base of the neck, but the 
second went gaily away with a broken hind-leg ; and 
a ram with a broken leg is, as I very soon found out, 
by no means an easy beast to get on terms with, 
especially when you have the inherent stupidity of 
two Kalmuks combined to reckon with as well. 

Having watched him till he lay down, I pointed him 
out to Pombo, gave him the glass, and impressed upon 
him by signs and forcible expressions that I desired 
him to remain where he was to keep an eye on the 
wounded ram, while I proceeded to stalk him. I then 
started off, but I had reckoned without Kalmuk number 
2, who seized the opportunity before I had gone very 
far of leading a white pony along the sky-line behind 
us. Of course the ram was up and away like a flash ; 
but he soon lay down again, this time mercifully out of 
sight of both Kalmuks, who evidently imagined that 
he had gone off for good, and set to work to skin and 
cut up the dead beast. I marked down the spot where 
he was lying, and then went off as hard as I could to 



get round him. There was a valley to be crossed and 
a long climb up a steep shaley mountain-side to be 
effected, and it was not till an hour later that I found 
myself crawling down towards the spot which I had 
so carefully marked. To my satisfaction I was soon 
able to make out a horn straight down below me, and 
I knew that he was still there. A few more yards 
and I should be in a position to shoot ; but the next 
moment, to my consternation, I saw the ram spring 
up and bolt, and looking for some cause I descried the 
evil features of Pombo appearing over a ridge straight 
in front of me ! He was evidently blissfully ignorant 
of the presence either of myself or of the wounded ram, 
but there was no time to be lost, and, running on to 
a slight eminence, I apprised him of the position by 
emptying the contents of the magazine after the flying 
beast. By a stroke of good luck I brought him down, 
and the next minute was standing exultant beside 
him. He carried a fine horn of 51 inches, and as 
the first also had a horn of just over 50 inches, I 
congratulated myself on bringing my trip after wild 
sheep to a highly satisfactory conclusion. 

The following day, August 21, I stayed in camp 
packing the horns and head-skins, and making various 
preparations for leaving the country on the morrow. I 
had been out shooting exactly fourteen days, and during 
that time had shot ten rams and a gazelle, an excellent 
bag, considering the bare nature of the country and 
the wildness of the game. I need hardly add, perhaps, 
that we had worked hard to secure this result. Per- 
sonally I had not taken a rest once during the fortnight, 
and the day's work cannot have averaged less than 
fourteen hours during the whole of that time, my 
habit being to leave camp at 5 or 6 a.m. and to get 
back again by dark or as soon after as possible. 



The trophies which I had secured were all fine heads, 
with the exception of one small one which I discarded, 
and included four heads of over 50 inches, as follows : 
50f, 51, 55, and 57 inches; the measurements of the 
six best heads given in the latest edition of Mr 
Rowland Ward's * Horn Measurements' being 62, 60, 
5 9 J, 59, 56|-, and 55 inches. 

On the 22nd, I bade farewell to my Mongol soldier, 
who, by the way, had just concluded an agreement 
with my Kalmuks to meet them at a spot known to 
them in the mountains on the frontier, with 30 bricks 
of tea, for which he was to be paid 25 roubles. By 
thus evading the vigilance of the Russian Custom 
officials at Kosh-Agach they no doubt expected to do 
a good stroke of business, the price of this particular 
brand of tea in Russia amounting to 1 rouble 40 kopecks 
per brick. 

Two days later I reached Kosh-Agach, whence a. 
march of eight days brought me to the Russiaci 
village of Onguidai. Here I was able to get post- 
horses again, and reached Biisk on wheels in five days 
more, taking steamer from here down the river Ob to 
the Siberian railway. 


" Clime of the East ! that to the hunter's bow 
And roving herds of savage men wert sold — 
Their cone-roofed wigwams pierced the wintry snow, 
Their tasselled corn crept sparsely through the mould, 
Their bark canoes thy glorious waters clave. 
The chase their glory and the wild their grave — 
Look up ! a loftier destiny behold." 


"Railroad iron is a magician's rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping 
energies of land and water." — R. W. Emerson. 



The Government of Tomsk — The Altai mining district — Nature of the 
country — An agricultural land— Three years' famine — The fallow-land 
system — Absence of English-made goods — The reason — The Siberian 
village — The Siberian peasant — The vodka curse — The Government 
vodka monopoly — Vodka statistics — Barnaul — A general store — The 
Altai highlands — Kosh-Agach — Eusso- Mongol trade — The city of 
Tomsk — The mystery of Tomsk — Feodor Kuzmitch — The mysterious 
death of Alexander I. — "Alexander's House" at Tomsk — The uni- 
versity and technological institute — Population and position. 

Immediately north of the region of " steppe border- 
land/' known as Semipalatinsk, lies that portion of 
Siberia embraced by the government of Tomsk. 
Bounded on the west and north-west by the Akmo- 
linsk territory and the Tobolsk government, and on the 
east and north-east by Mongolia and the Yeniseisk 
government, it comprises an area of upwards of 331,000 
square miles, or, to give a better idea, is one and a half 
times as large as France. Through the centre of this 
province runs the middle link of the great Siberian 
railway, and south of the line are situated four of 
the seven unequal divisions into which, for purposes 
of internal administration, it is divided, known as 
the Barnaul, Biisk, Kuznetsk, and Zeminogorsk dis- 
tricts, forming the property of his Imperial Majesty's 
Cabinet under the name of the Altai mining dis- 
trict. This property, already one of the richest in 



Siberia, is certain to advance still further in import- 
ance, especially when the proposed Tomsk-Tashkent 
railway is taken in hand, and merits a few words of 

The surface of the country is varied, a vast level plain 
constituting the western and northern portions, while 
on the east and south-east rise ranges of the Altai 
Mountains. Throughout the lowlands rich black earth, 
which has proved to be the most fertile soil of Siberia, 
abounds, and hence doubtless the attraction which has 
brought settlers to these parts in such large numbers 
during recent years. For long, attempts were made to 
protect the Altai lands from the intrusion of immi- 
grants ; but since 1865, when the district was first 
opened to colonisation, the influx of settlers has steadily 
increased, as many as 300,000 being said to have settled 
in the Cabinet lands of his Majesty within the last ten 
years of the past century. Agriculture is consequently 
the predominant occupation of the people, and though 
only a fraction of the total arable land is sown, a large 
surplus of grain is available in normal years for export 
to Eastern Siberia and other parts of the empire. The 
recent three years' famine caused by drought has there- 
fore been a severe blow to the prosperity of the country, 
and though the harvest of 1903 promised to be a fair 
one, it could only go a part of the way towards recom- 
pensing the settlers for the heavy loss which they have 
recently sustained. But later events — the war in the 
Far East — are likely to bring about a still greater 
measure of depression, if, as is probable, troops are to 
be levied in Siberia, a proceeding which, in the opinion 
of well-qualified judges, would mean the depopulation 
of whole villages. 

The system of husbandry adopted is characterised by 
the fallow-land system, and to the eye of the English- 



man, accustomed to the neat enclosures of an agricul- 
tural district in his own country, which once led an 
American critic to describe it as having the appearance 
of being finished with a pencil rather than with a 
plough, the land has a ragged and untidy appearance. 
Hedges and ditches there are none, but patches of corn 
alternate with tracts of grass or waste land, with no 
apparent method or order. Driving from the foot of 
the Altai Mountains to the town of Biisk, a distance of 
upwards of fifty miles, in September, I received the 
impression of passing over a continuous patch -work 
quilt, masses of golden corn shining in a setting of 
grass and flowers, alternating with patches of newly- 
stacked hay. 

There are no signs of manure of any sort being in 
use, the fertility of the soil, and the vast amount of 
virgin land merely awaiting the plough, being con- 
ducive no doubt to apathy and carelessness on the part 
of the farmer with regard to the future. " The land," 
as Mr Simpson remarks, is very rich, and there is a 
royal waste of everything — of time, of space, of natural 
products." ^ Your Siberian peasant sows jhis seed and 
then sits down and placidly waits for it to grow and 
ripen. It does not seem to occur to him, as it does to 
the onlooker, that however fertile the soil the phos- 
phates must some time become exhausted, and that 
however plentiful the virgin land, a day will come 
when its limit will have been reached. When these 
things come to pass he will doubtless learn wisdom ; in 
the meantime he is blissfully content. 

This is not all that strikes the Englishman, however, 
if he happens to be of an observant turn of mind. For 
to any one who takes the trouble to note it, the absence 
of English-made agricultural implements is painfully 

^ Sidelights on Siberia. J. Y. Simpson. 



obvious. Ploughs that are not of Russian manufacture 
bear the names of American and German firms, while 
M'Cormick reapers and Deering mowers bear witness 
on all sides to the success which has attended the 
energy and enterprise of our cousins across the Atlantic. 
Siberia is a vast agricultural country, which must offer 
a steadily increasing market for agricultural machinery 
— a fact which does not seem to have been appreciated 
by our own manufacturers. So, as I found before long, 
with everything else. You may travel far in Siberia 
with the fixed intention of finding something of Eng- 
lish make, and fail. I think a Merry weather fire-engine, 
the chemical balances used in the gold-smelting labora- 
tory at Irkutsk, and the Morgan " crucibles of world 
renown used in the same place, about exhaust the list 
of English articles which I saw. 

And when you begin to wonder why, and to search 
for the reason, you are reluctantly compelled to admit 
that the fault lies at our own door. No trouble is 
taken to comply with the requirements of the people. 
Catalogues, when they are sent at all, are almost in- 
variably sent in English — I know of only one honour- 
able exception — and might just as well be written in 
Sanskrit.^ Specimens of the article required are re- 
fused, a ridiculous economy, since nothing will induce 
the Siberian to buy what he is unable first to see 
working for himself; and further, long credits, which 
are invariable in the country, are rigorously tabooed. 
So the wily German and the astute American " travel- 
ler " steps in, and before we realise what has occurred 
the market is gone. 

^ The same lament comes from other quarters. Compare the report of 
the British Vice-Consul at Resht for 1902-3, in which he states that cata- 
logues sent to him from the United Kingdom are in the majority of cases 
useless, owing to the fact that Persians cannot read them. 



After agriculture the rearing of live-stock forms an 
important element in the husbandry of the country, 
horses, cattle, and sheep being raised in large numbers, 
especially in the Barnaul and Biisk districts. Bee- 
keeping, too, is largely practised, enormous quantities 
of honey and wax being produced in the Biisk and 
Zeminogorsk districts, and when travelling through the 
country I often obtained excellent honey from the 
villagers. The villages are invariably composed of 
wooden houses built of rough unsquared logs, moss 
and earth being forced into the interstices to keep out 
the cold. The windows are double for the same reason 
— a good enough reason, too, when we remember that 
the thermometer drops to 70° below zero (Fahrenheit), 
without causing surprise to any one.^ Originality 
plays no part in their construction, one being like 
unto another ; " indeed," to quote Mr Simpson once 
more, " they only differ in one respect — their linear 
extent ; otherwise they are all at the same stage of 
development." I saw the interiors of many such dwell- 
ings, often spending the night in the house of some 
villager when travelling, and was struck with the 
uniformity of their appearance. The rooms, of which 
there were generally two or three, were always fur- 
nished on the most simple plan — a table standing 
against a bare wall, a few chairs, and a large wooden 
bed piled up with cushions and blankets, constituting 
the bed- and sitting-room, while a huge whitewashed 
brick stove and oven combined monopolised the greater 
part of the other, which served as kitchen. The walls 
were seldom adorned with anything beyond an ikon 
and print of the Tsar and Tsaritsa, and never once did I 
see a sign of those odds and ends, such as ornaments, 

At Novo Nicholaewsk on the Siberian railway the greatest amount of 
cold registered is usually 46° Reamur = 103° of frost Fahrenheit. 



pictures, photographs, &c., which make the lares and 
penates of an English cottage. 

The villager himself is a sad-looking man, which is, 
perhaps, not to be wondered at, for he only reflects the 
circumstances of his existence. The excessive length 
of his hair and the fulness of his bushy beard give 
him a somewhat wild and uncouth appearance, and his 
mirth is as brief as the short summer he enjoys, the 
usual hard expression which he wears being but a 
reflex of the long gloomy winter which broods over his 
land. He wears a cotton blouse, generally of scarlet, 
or one of the many shades which scarlet assumes 
under the influence of sun and rain on its road to an 
ultimate neutral tint, thick baggy trousers, whose 
shape is the result of chance rather than design, and 
the ends of which are tucked into big top-boots made 
for comfort rather than for elegance. In addition to 
a trouser end, a long-stemmed pipe is, as a rule, kept 
in one, and a wad of tobacco, rolled up in an indescrib- 
able rag, in the other, besides other small odds and 
ends which might be found in an ordinary being's 
pockets. He gets solemnly drunk on vodka when he 
has nothing better to do, which is mostly, and is apt 
to become aggressive under its influence. 'i 

Vodka, indeed, is likely to prove the curse of Siberia. 
I have related in a previous chapter how the post- 
master one Sunday evening told me he would bring 
the blacksmith to repair my tarantass if he was not 
drunk, and on another occasion I found the postmaster 
himself gloriously intoxicated at nine o'clock in the 
morning. Once in the small town of Zeminogorsk I 
came to blows with an inebriated peasant, and narrowly 
escaped being locked up by an ofiicious police-officer 
for setting upon an inofiensive (?) subject of the Tsar ! 
To prove that I was not the victim of chance, it is only 



necessary to have recourse to the writings of other 
travellers in Eussia and Siberia. Mr Henry Norman, 
for instance, v^rites of the Russian peasant that " he 
gets wildly drunk at Easter for joy to think that 
Christ is risen, and at other times for no reason at 
all";^ while Mr Simpson, in his * Sidelights on Siberia,' 
records that " Sunday evening is usually spent in 
rioting and drunkenness. . . . From Tomsk onwards it 
was not once or twice merely that we passed men lying 
in the centre of the village road ; and often late in the 
evening small groups of inebriates stumbled along the 
uneven track, unduly emphasising with each loss of 
balance sundry snatches of their weird minor airs." 

It has been suggested by some that the Government 
vodka monopoly, which is gradually being introduced 
throughout the Russian Empire, will tend to lessen 
drunkenness. I am bound to admit that I am quite 
unable to agree with this far too sanguine expectation. 
To begin with, where the monopoly is in force, vodka 
may not be consumed on the premises where it is sold. 
Result : the peasant cannot buy a glass of vodka, so 
he buys a bottle, walks outside, empties the bottle 
(down his throat !), returns to the shop, and receives 
back value in money for the empty bottle. At the 
settlement of Novo Nicholaewsk — of which more anon 
— the monopoly came into force in November 1902. 
In the course of the first ten months the takings 
amounted to 1:^ million roubles ! That is to say, 
taking fifty kopecks a pint as the average price paid 
for vodka, the amount consumed in ten months was 
375,000 gallons ! I have secured the figures for the 
province of Moscow, with a population of just under 
2\ millions, during the year 1902, which are equally 
instructive. Six hundred and eleven Government 

^ All the Eussias. 



shops retailed 8,139,530 gallons of vodka, having a 
total value of £3,242,341, the clear profit amounting 
to £2,410,568. This shows an increase of profit over 
the previous year of £1,252,528, or nearly 100 per 
cent ! Excellent for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
no doubt, though hardly an inspiring outlook from the 
temperance point of view. What a pity the anti- 
compensationists — et hoc genus omne — don't live in 
Russia ! 

But my discussions on the Russian peasant and his 
faults are carrying me away from the subject in hand, 
which is the government of Tomsk. If the villages 
are severe in their simplicity, the towns show signs of 
a higher ambition. Barnaul, capital of the district of 
the same name, comes as a surprise. Here large build- 
ings of brick and stone are plentiful, there are broad 
streets and commodious shops, a substantial, almost 
magnificent. Government House rises in the centre of 
the town, and the churches, of course, form conspicuous 
objects. Altogether, the town wears an air of pros- 
perity and progress. Houses of wood still exist in 
parts, but in many places these may be seen in process 
of demolition, while superior buildings of brick are 
rising, phoenix-like, from their ashes. I went into one 
of the chief shops, which displayed an assortment of 
goods from bicycles to tooth-brushes. A map was my 
modest requirement, and a courteous shop-walker sent 
ofP an assistant to unearth the maps from the stationery 
department. In the meantime, was there anything else 
he could show me ? He had several excellent gramo- 
phones, recently imported — there were half a dozen on 
the counter, one of which was braying forth what I 
took to be a Russian comic song, in the harsh metallic 
cadence common to gramophones. No, I was in no 
need of a gramophone at the moment. Well, then, a 



bicycle or revolver ? No, I did not require the former, 
and was already provided with the latter. I saw 
machinery, tools, glass-ware, silver- ware, jewellery, 
hats, clothes, boots, toilet accessories, saddlery, oilman's 
stores, and confectionery looming large behind gramo- 
phone, bicycle, and revolver ; but fortunately the maps 
were produced at this moment, and I was spared 
further inspection of goods for which I had no possible 

Beyond Barnaul, that is to say higher up the river, 
is Biisk, which is Barnaul on a smaller scale, with 
electric light and a bishop's house thrown in, and 
beyond Biisk rise the wooded slopes and snow -clad 
peaks of the Altai highlands. The face of the country 
here assumes a complete change. You pass from a 
level almost treeless plain into a land of woods and 
mountains, of rushing streams and frost-bound heights, 
of lovely valleys, where grass and wild-flowers grow in 
riotous profusion, and where villages nestle snugly in 
sheltered hollows. Agriculture is less conspicuous here ; 
herds of horses and flocks of sheep form the wealth of 
the people, and trapping and hunting are among their 
favourite occupations. The last Bussian village of any 
importance is Onguidai, 250 versts from Biisk, beyond 
which the population is reduced to wandering Kalmuks, 
who live scattered widely over the country in round felt 
tents. After travelling for 500 versts from Biisk, yet 
another change comes over the land, tree -life ceases 
abruptly, agriculture becomes quite impossible, and you 
debouch on to a bare bleak plateau on the Mongolian 

Kosh-Agach — such is the name of the district we 
have reached — began with a church, erected upwards of 
thirty years ago for the benefit of the Kalmuk converts 
to orthodoxy. Then the prospect of trade with the 



Mongols attracted the merchant, who built him wooden 
houses on the banks of the Chuya river. Now there 
are ten merchants, forming a little colony on the edge 
of the bleak plateau, pushing their trade into Mongolia, 
and buying the produce of that country in return. 
Manufactured and millinery goods, iron and copper 
wares, tanned leather and maral horns pass into Mon- 
golia, and in return furs, wool, skins, brick tea, silk 
stuffs, and small wares of Chinese manufacture are 
brought into Russia. This trade, which has so far 
attained a value of only a few hundred thousand 
roubles, is likely to show an increased development 
before long, since the authorities have been engaged 
during the past two years in constructing a road, at a 
cost of 65,000 roubles (roughly £6500), from Onguidai, 
which is now sufficiently near completion to admit of 
the passage of light vehicles for the whole distance 
to the frontier, whence a caravan route leads to Kobdo, 
Uliissatai, and Urga, the chief centres of Mongolian 
trade. ^ At present Mongolia can only be described as 
a poor country ; but a great future lies before it when 

^ Since writing these words, I learn from Siberia that the road has 
already given a considerable impetus to Russian trade with Mongolia, 
whence increasing quantities of sheep's wool, camel hair, prepared felt, 
hides, and skins are being obtained. Trade with this country is also being 
stimulated by the opening up of a water route via the lower Irtish, the 
Nor-Zaisan Lake, and the Black Irtish river, up which steamers and barges 
have now been run for three years in succession by three merchants of 
Semipalatinsk, who have established a station at the mouth of the Kaldjir 
river, a tributary of the Black Irtish. In the course of last season 8000 
tons of merchandise were thus carried, and two new steamers are being 
built with a Government subsidy, to be launched in the present year. The 
present station at the mouth of the Kaldjir river is 45 miles from the 
Russian town of Zaisansk, 150 miles from the Mongolian town of Tchu- 
gutchak and 375 miles from Kobdo. A party of surveyors and scientists 
were under orders to proceed on an expedition of exploration with a view 
to finding the best route to this latter town ; but owing to the outbreak of 
war and the consequent withdrawal of all extraordinary expenditure on the 
part of the Government the expedition has been postponed. 




the untold mineral wealth of which it is known to be 
possessed comes to be extracted from the bosom of the 
earth, and it requires no great powers of perception to 
perceive to whom the bulk of it will fall. 

Such in brief is the Government of Tomsk, a vast 
territory embracing some of the richest and most pros- 
perous tracts of Siberia, or rather, I should perhaps say, 
those parts of Tomsk which I had opportunities of 
visiting. I have given some description of the country 
and its people ; it remains for me before concluding this 
chapter to say a few words about its capital. 

Tomsk — so called from its situation on the river 
Tom — has a mystery of its own, but it is in 
no way connected with the railway. The so-called 
mystery of the railway, — why Tomsk, the univer- 
sity town, the most populous city in Siberia, and 
prospective capital of 5,000,000 square miles of terri- 
tory, was severely left on one side when the great rail- 
way came to be built, — is in reality no mystery at all, 
least of all to the inhabitants of the city concerned. 
The said inhabitants were proud — their position they 
thought was unassailable — and they shouted defiance at 
the engineers when they demanded their price for in- 
cluding Tomsk in their scheme of railway construction. 
But they forgot that they were in Russia and were 
dealing with Russian engineers, so Tomsk was left out 
in the cold, and is to this day left at the terminus of 
a branch 5 9 miles from the main line. Now they would 
willingly give twice the amount originally demanded, 
but it is too late. The whole business is not a creditable 
one, and casts a serious reflection on the honour of the 
engineers who built the line, and perhaps the less said 
about it the better. 

The real mystery of Tomsk centres round the tomb of 
a pious hermit, one Feodor Kuzmitch, who died in 1864, 



and was buried by the monks of the Alexis monastery 
in the town, leaving behind him a memory which at the 
present day is held in reverent awe by the people. But 
there was something more than the extreme piety and 
asceticism of his life to excite the worship which is now 
accorded him ; and herein lies the mystery, for there is 
no doubt whatsoever that, whoever the wanderer who 
reached Tomsk in 1849 to make it his final home may 
in reality have been, the vast majority of its inhabitants 
are firmly convinced that in the person of the lonely 
monk there was living among them no less a personage 
than the abdicated monarch, Alexander I. 

The story is one of absorbing interest, and is worthy 
of a foremost place among those strange romances with 
which the annals of Russian history are fraught. 

As far as recorded history goes, we are led to believe 
that Alexander I. died in November, in the year 1825, 
at the town of Taganrog, whither he had repaired for 
the benefit of his health. But, as is not unusually the 
case in the history of Russia, there is much that requires 
explanation and elucidation in connection with what is 
described by the historian Rambaud as " the premature 
and mysterious death of Alexander." The circumstances 
attendant on his departure from his capital are suffi- 
ciently strange. " At the moment of his departure 
he appears to have been shaken by gloomy presenti- 
ments, and insisted on a requiem mass being said at the 
monastery of Saint Alexander Nevski. In broad day- 
light, lighted tapers were left in his room. . . . At 
Taganrog Alexander received circumstantial accounts 
as to the conspiracy of the Society of the South and its 
schemes of regicide. Cruel recollections of 1801 may 
have mingled with his melancholy. He thought sadly 
of the terrible embarrassments which he would bequeath 
to his successor ; of his lost illusions ; of his liberal 



sympathies of former days, which in Poland, as in 
Russia, had ended in a reaction ; of his broken pur- 
poses and changed life." ^ 

His body was of course carried to St Petersburg for 
burial, but the people of Tomsk will tell you that 
spurious corpses are easy to obtain in Russia, and that 
whosoever it may have been, it was not the body of 
Alexander over which was read the royal funeral service 
of 1825. An old Cossack officer told Mr Simpson that 
he was a boy in St Petersburg at the time when the 
remains of the deceased emperor were brought up from 
the south ; and that he remembered distinctly how it 
was quite openly remarked that the body was not that 
of Alexander, and how it was a cause of comment at 
the time that people were not allowed to pass by and 
look on the face of their late emperor as he lay in state, 
according to custom ; ^ and I was told stories to the 
same effect in Tomsk. So much for the accredited 
history of the death of Alexander. Now for the version 
which is not to be found in the chronicles of recognised 

Not very long after the supposed death of that 
monarch, a vagrant, having in his possession a horse of 
a quality which did not, in the opinion of the police, 
coincide with his humble status, turned up on the 
eastern borders of Russia, and, as he refused to explain 
how he came by his property, was beaten and despatched 
across the frontier to Siberia. The first years of his life 
in that country were spent in the neighbourhood of 
Krasnoyarsk ; but in 1832 he moved to a village twenty 
miles from Tomsk, where he lived a retired and ascetic 
life for seventeen years. In 1849 he came to Tomsk 
itself, to spend the remainder of his life amid the humble 

^ History of Russia. Alfred Rambaud. 
2 Sidelights on Siberia. J. Y. Simpson. 



surroundings of a small wooden house, 18 ft. by 20 ft., 
which is known to this day as "Alexander's House." 
The simple furniture he used is still preserved, but the 
simplicity and gloom of the apartment are now relieved 
by many gilded ikons, and by portraits of Alexander I. 
and Feodor Kuzmitch, placed side by side to accentuate 
their strong resemblance. The place is looked upon as 
holy ground, a shed has been raised over the whole 
building to protect it, and services are held there every 

Papers proving his identity are said to have been 
taken to St Petersburg after his death at his own 
request by his landlord, Khromov ; and I was told of a 
curious incident which is likewise held to be proof of 
his being no other than the abdicated monarch. 

While heir to the throne, it is asserted that Alex- 
ander 11. , during his tour in Siberia, visited the lonely 
monk near Krasnoyarsk. For long he was closeted 
with him, until at length the curiosity of the village 
priest, in whose house the interview took place, could 
no longer be restrained, and gazing through the key- 
hole he saw to his astonishment the heir to the throne 
of all the Russias humbly kneeling before the myste- 
rious monk ! 

Be the story right or wrong, no amount of argument, 
however forcible, will persuade Siberia that she was not 
the unwitting host of a royal guest ; and almost the 
last thing I saw in Tomsk was a humble citizen bowing 
and praying before the small chapel which is now being 
erected above the grave of the deceased ascetic. 

But even without a mystery Tomsk would be a 
notable town. It has a university — the only one at 
present in Siberia — with faculties for medicine and 
jurisprudence, and the prospect of others to come, at- 
tended at the time of my visit by 600 students. It has 



botanical and zoological museums. It boasts of its 
electric light and telephones, and it parades before you 
rows of massive buildings, which are in reality composed 
of brick and stucco, but which look like stone. It 
provides fine shops for you, and is building arcades ; it 
has theatres and hotels, and, last but not least, it is 
possessed of a technological institute of which any city 
in the world might be proud. This latter building is 
magnificent. It is four storeys high, and covers a large 
area of ground on both sides of a wide street. Drawing 
and elementary instruction had been started for three 
years ; chemistry was being begun when I was there, 
and physical science and mineralogy were shortly to be 
embarked upon. Buildings for engineering were being 
added, and altogether it was expected that additions 
would be made during the next five years. The whole 
institute is lighted with electric light and artificially 
heated, and the laboratories are fitted with all the 
latest appliances from German manufactories. 

I have said much that is good about Tomsk : there 
are some things that are bad also. The shops are in- 
ordinately expensive, and the streets and roads recall 
the horrors of Constantinople. But on the whole Tomsk 
has every right to be proud. Its 50,000 inhabitants 
place it alongside of Irkutsk, as the two most popular 
cities in Siberia, and its university will ensure its re- 
maining one of the chief cities of the country, even 
should its present unfortunate position involve its 
decline in commercial activity before others more for- 
tunately placed. 





The spirit of discovery of the sixteenth century — Yermak — The conquest of 
Siberia — The treaty of Nertchinsk — Count Muravieff — Need of com- 
munications in Siberia — Early railway schemes — The Perm-Tiumen 
line built — The imperial rescript of March 1891 — The cost of the 
Siberian railway — The price of a ticket — Western Siberia — The 
settlement of Novo Nicholaewsk — Dairy-farming — The junction for 
Tomsk — Deficiencies of the railway track — The monotony of the 
journey — Irkutsk — Its origin — Its present position — Its chief 
buildings — The gold-smelting laboratory. 

The sixteenth century is one which has left an indelible 
mark in the annals of Western nations. The spirit of 
unrest which had long lain dormant in the peoples of 
Europe burst forth simultaneously in half-a-dozen 
countries, impelling men irresistibly to leave their 
homes and penetrate to the uttermost ends of the 
earth. A veritable lust for discovery set in, fostering 
in the hearts of the intrepid adventurers of the day 
seed which was destined to give birth in due course 
to the empires of the world. So it happened that 
while the world was still marvelling at the discoveries 
of John Cabot and Christopher Columbus beyond the | 
Western seas, and speculating on the possibilities ' 
opened up by the successful outcome of the daring 
voyage of Vasco da Gama in the East, there arose, in | 
a wild and lawless district bordering the banks of the 
Volga and the Don, a man who was destined to set 



going on its long career the natural tendency of the 
Slav race towards the East, and by force of char- 
acter and his own extraordinary personality to start 
the rapidly awakening power of Russia ^ on the thorny 
road to empire. 

Yassil, the son of Timothy Povolski, known to the 
world by his curious nickname, Yermak (millstone), 
given him by his fellow- boatmen, pervaded by the 
same spirit of unrest which was stirring the pulses of 
Western Europe, early developed from boatman into 
Cossack chief, a synonym in those days for pirate 
king. A career of successful piracy on the Volga was 
brought to an abrupt termination when news of the 
doings of the chief and his desperadoes was brought 
to the ears of Ivan the Terrible, who, incensed at such 
flagrant defiance of law and order, despatched an army 
to put an end to the freebooters. Thus does the fate 
of men and nations hang ever on the trend of small 
events. Driven from his former haunts, compelled to 
seek safety on the confines of the country, the pirate 
chief came under the eye of the merchants Stroganoff, 
already grown rich and powerful on possessions on the 
Kama ; and entering their service, volunteered to lead 
an expedition for them across the Urals in quest of the 
rich furs of the coveted land of Yugra. On New 
Year's Day 1581 (then September 1st), he started at 
the head of 800 men for the unknown land beyond 
the mountains : in less than two years he had won an 
empire for his sovereign and a pardon for himself. 
Such was the beginning of the movement which has 
given five million square miles to a Russian Tsar, and 
won for a nation still young — fit compensation for the 
stormy days of childhood passed under the galling yoke 

^ The first man to assume the title of autocrat of all Russia was Ivan III., 
son of Vassil II., Grand Duke of Vladimir, a century before (1462). 



of the Golden Horde — the proud heritage of one of the 
greatest empires of the world ! 

The story of the exploits of Yermak up to the day 
of his violent death in the frenzied waters of the 
Irtish, while trying to swim to safety from a disas- 
trous night -attack at the hands of his old enemy, the 
Tartar chief Kutchum, and of the daring feats and 
heroic endurance of the Cossack bands who took up 
the task thus started, as they pressed steadfastly on 
towards the East, harassed by the savage tribes they 
encountered, cut off by vast stretches of inhospitable 
country from their base, and exposed to the rigour of 
the terrible Siberian winter, is one of surpassing in- 
terest, but one which it would be beyond the scope of 
the present chapter to portray. Suffice it to say that 
little less than half a century after Yermak had led 
his band across the Urals, thanks to the dauntless 
courage and perseverance of these pioneers, the limit 
of the continent Avas reached on the Sea of Okhotsk ; 
while, in strong contrast to this activity and progress 
in the north, stands the indifference of the Government 
at Moscow and the incompetence of their envoy in the 
Amur region on the south, who, baffled by the ability 
of a Jesuit priest,^ signed away the ground won under 
exceptional difficulties by a succession of heroes, and 
put a check upon Russian expansion in the direction 
of the Pacific, which was only removed a century and 
a half later by the genius of a man who did for Kussia 
in the Far East all and more than Yermak had done 
for her in the West. 

^ The treaty of Nertchinsk, the first ever concluded by China with a 
foreign power, was signed in 1689 by the Eussian envoy Golovin and the 
Jesuit fathers, Gerbillon and Pereira, who accompanied the Chinese Pleni- 
potentiary. By its terms Russia gave up the Amur and retired behind 
the river Gorbitza, the line of mountains bounding on the north the basin 
of the Amur and the river Argun. 



Count MuravieiF, appointed Governor -General of 
Eastern Siberia in 1847, broke the long spell of in- 
activity which had sterilised Russian enterprise east 
of the Baikal for 160 years, and, in spite of violent 
opposition from headquarters, and innumerable obstacles 
on the spot, succeeded, before he laid down his staff 
of office, in wiping out the inglorious treaty of Nert- 
chinsk, in bringing the whole of the Amur region 
under the yoke of E-ussia, and establishing her firmly 
on the Pacific seaboard as far south as the borders of 
Korea, thus putting the finishing touches to the great 
movement begun three centuries before, which has had 
for effect the inclusion of half a continent in the 
dominions of the Tsar. 

I have given this short sketch of the Conquest of 
Siberia because it explains the circumstances which 
have led up to the subject of this chapter, the con- 
struction of the greatest railway which the world 
has seen. Towns and villages followed in the wake 
of Cossack pioneers, and with the establishment of a 
sedentary form of occupation, the necessity of improved 
communication, without which the administration of law 
and order in such wide regions was impossible, forced 
itself upon the attention of the central Government at 
St Petersburg.^ Post-roads, such as still afford the 
only means of communication in many parts of Asiatic 
Russia, were inaugurated, stretching from town to 
town, until the links were at length forged into a 
great chain, which reached across Asia from the Urals 
to the Pacific. Later on a further advance was made 
by the introduction of steam traffic on the principal 

^ The centre of administration was moved from Moscow to St Petersburg 
in the days of Peter the Great, who assumed the reins of government on 
September 12, 1689, a fortnight after the conclusion of the treaty of Nert- 



waterways of Siberia, and when at last a man arose 
to put fresh life-blood into the stagnant veins of Russian 
activity in the East, it was in great measure due to the 
defects inevitably attaching to the navigation of rivers 
themselves frozen for half the year, flowing into a 
remote and almost impracticable sea, that the project 
of constructing railways, to at least assist existing 
communications, took definite shape. 

The earliest definite suggestion seems to have come 
from an English engineer, who proposed to build a 
gigantic horse tramway, extending from Nijni-Novgorod 
to the Pacific Ocean ; but, as Mr Henry Norman re- 
marks, "it is not surprising that the Russian Govern- 
ment passed over in silence so fantastic a scheme, 
unsupported by any estimates." ^ Another proposal 
made in the same year was that of Colonel Romanoff, 
for a carriage-road, to be transformed later into a rail- 
way, between Sophiisk on the Amur and De Castries 
Bay. The idea of railway communication having once 
taken root, a whole host of proposals of varying merit 
immediately sprang up, including one by an American, 
Collins, to unite Irkutsk and Chita ; a gigantic scheme 
for traversing the whole region by three Englishmen, 
Morrison, Horn, and Sleigh ; and the equally colossal 
project of Sophronofi", to build a line from Saratof 
across the Steppe via Semipalatinsk to the Amur and 

After this many schemes of a less ambitious nature 
were propounded, the first tangible result appearing 
in the shape of a line built solely to satisfy the demands 
of the Ural mining industry, a special commission, 

1 In his ' Peoples and Politics of the Far East.' The facts concerning the 
proposals for and eventual construction of the trans-Siberian railway are 
taken from the above book, Vladimir's 'Eussia on the Pacific,' and the 
official ' Guide to the Great Siberian Eailway.' 


organised for the purpose of selecting the most suitable 
route to satisfy the requirements of the mining industry 
and Siberian transport, having come to the conclusion 
that the two interests were incompatible. This line, 
projected by Colonel Bogdanovitch, had for its starting- 
point Perm, and reaching Ekaterinburg in 1878 was 
completed as far as Tiumen in 1884 ; and it was not 
until 1891 that the much-discussed scheme for a great 
trans- continental railway was finally decided on. By 
this time there were three lines, any one of which could 
be extended east beyond the Urals, and the choice 
eventually adopted was made in accordance with a 
detailed note presented by the then Minister of Ways 
and Communications, State Secretary Yon Hubbenet, 
on November 15, 1890. 

After pointing out that the possible points of de- 
parture of a trans-Siberian line to Nizhneudinsk were 
(1) Tiumen on the Ural line, (2) Orenburg on the 
Orenburg line, and (3) Mias on the Zlatoust-Mias line, 
he demonstrated the advantages of a line starting from 
the last-named as being the shortest from Moscow, the 
cheapest to construct, and the one passing through the 
most populous localities of Western Siberia ; while he 
objected to the Orenburg line on the grounds of its 
great length and cost owing to technical difficulties, 
and to the Tiumen line as necessitating the further 
construction of a costly line of 1000 versts from Perm 
to Nijni-Novgorod to preserve its commercial import- 
ance. Urged by the Ministers of War and Foreign 
Affairs, he also attached great importance to the con- 
struction of the Ussuri line for connecting Vladivostok 
with the Amur Basin, which, at the instigation of 
Count Ignatieff and Baron Korf, had already been 
sanctioned by the Emperor in 1887. 

As a result of these representations, the Committee 




of Ministers issued an order, sanctioned by the Emperor, 
in February 1891, (l) to approve the direction of the 
Ussuri line from Vladivostok to Grafskaya station, 
(2) to commence the construction of the Mias-Chelia- 
binsk line in 1891, and (3) to conduct surveys in the 
same year from Cheliabinsk to Tomsk or some other 
point of the mid - Siberian section, and from the ter- 
minus of the first section of the Ussuri line to Khar- 
barovsk, and by an imperial rescript issued in March 
1891 the question of the construction of the great 
Trans-Siberian railway was definitely settled. 

It must be admitted that in constructing a line across 
Asia, Russia has become responsible for one of the 
achievements of the world. An English officer, whose 
lot has been cast for the most part in the East, once 
said to me that Russia had done two big things — she 
had carried on the Russo-Turkish war and she had 
built the Siberian railway, and there can be few who 
will deny that, as far at any rate as the latter is con- 
cerned, he was undoubtedly correct. In little more 
than ten years 6000 miles of railway have been built, 
and the journey from London to Shanghai, even with 
the present imperfect running, has been reduced from 
upwards of a month via the Suez Canal to nineteen 
days. The cost has, of course, been enormous — far 
greater indeed than it ought to have been, and the 
estimate rose as the line progressed. At one time 
£40,000,000 was suggested as the probable cost of the 
undertaking; but by the end of 1899 £53,000,000 had 
already been spent, and the total official estimate rose 
to £82,500,000. By the end of last year (1903) even 
this stupendous sum had been exceeded, and an official 
publication, commemorating the tenth anniversary of 
the Imperial Committee of the Siberian Railway, was 
issued, which placed the total cost of the line through 



Siberia and Manchuria to Vladivostok and Port 
Arthur at 940,000,000 odd roubles, or £99,000,000, 
which works out at something like £16,600 per mile. 
This will have still to be added to by the time that 
the difficult circum-Baikal branch is completed. 

Travelling is luxuriant in the extreme, the car- 
riages — particularly the newest ones, which have been 
constructed for the Trans-Baikal and Manchurian sec- 
tions — being very high and roomy, fitted with electric 
light, a movable electric reading - lamp, and electric 
bells, and being connected by a corridor with a smoking 
saloon, dining saloon, and bathroom. Small plate-glass 
flanges are fitted at right angles to the windows, which 
prevent sparks, &c., blowing in when open, and electric 
fans give additional ventilation when required in the 
smoking and dining car. With all these comforts you 
naturally expect to have to pay handsomely for the 
privilege of travelling on the line, and it comes as a 
surprise to you when you learn the ridiculously low 
price of a ticket. It was originally officially predicted 
that the cost of a first-class ticket by fast train, in- 
clusive of government tax and sleeping accommodation, 
from Moscow to Port Arthur, a distance of something 
like 5300 miles, would be 114 roubles, or a fraction 
over £12, and, though this estimate has in point of fact 
been largely exceeded, the present price of 270 roubles 
78 kopecks, or £28, 16s., can only be described as 
exceedingly moderate. There is, however, one thing 
which it struck me might be altered with advantage, 
not only to the passengers but also to the receipts of 
the railway, and that is, the time of duration of a 
through ticket. When it is remembered that forty-five 
days are allowed for the journey on a through ticket 
from London to St Petersburg, it strikes one as a little 
absurd that twenty- four days should be the limit 



allowed for the journey from Moscow to Port Arthur, 
and fifteen and eleven from the two chief towns in 
Siberia — namely, Tomsk and Irkutsk. It is to be 
hoped that the authorities will see their way before 
long to remove so annoying and unnecessary a limit- 

The following list of fares may be of interest to the 
traveller : — 












London to 






Port Arthur 


1 Ostend . 











^ Calais 






London to 

' » 







1 Ostend . 






> " . 





' Calais 






London to 


1 „ . 






Peking . 

" 1 

1 Ostend . 











What is to be seen in the course of a journey through 
this far-off land, from which tales of terror used to 
come as from some lonely land of inexorable exile, 
where misery, pain, and death alone awaited its un- 
happy visitors ? Thanks to the Russian railway and 
the accounts of many modern travellers, such fantastic 
pictures, depicting Siberia as the country of despair, no 
longer obtain credence even among the least informed. 
Convicts and prisons, with an undue share perhaps of 
human misery and suffering, no doubt exist, but these 
are far away in the inhospitable regions of Yakutsk, 
and form but a small part of the Siberia of to-day ; nor 
do the horrors of the Arctic prison come under the pur- 
view of the traveller on the railway. The prospect 
which meets the traveller's gaze is of a very different 



Of Western Siberia I cannot speak from personal 
experience. The picture which lingers in my mind 
from the accounts of other travellers is a simple mono- 
chrome. Uninterrupted plain from dawn till noon, and 
from noon till dusk, and from dusk till dawn again, 
hundreds and hundreds of miles of it. In September a 
sea of waving golden corn spread out all round, and 
tree-life in the shape of alder, birch, and willow. My 
own acquaintance with the line began at the settlement 
of Novo Nicholaewsk on the right bank of the Ob river, 
and it is at Novo Nicholaewsk, therefore, that I must 
ask the reader to step on board the train with me. 

First, however, a word about the settlement itself. 
In countries like Siberia towns spring up as if by 
magic ; where there was nothing one day there may 
be as likely as not a town the next, and Novo 
Nicholaewsk is an apt illustration of this pheno- 
menon. Nine years ago a vast virgin forest covered 
the banks of the great Ob river, through which the 
railway forced its way. Now a settlement of 30,000 
inhabitants, which is awaiting only an imperial edict, 
constituting it a town, to become a great deal larger, 
flourishes on the site of fallen pine and birch, and 
bids fair ere long to force its way to the forefront of 
Siberian cities. The advantageous position which it 
occupies at the junction of the railway and the great 
Ob waterway, and the fact that it is situated in the 
heart of the richest of the Siberian governments, are 
sufficient guarantees of the future which lies before it. 
A large government biscuit factory for the supply of 
troops, which is in process of construction, points to 
the probability of its shortly becoming an important 
military depot ; and the fact that in one or two 
instances large buildings of brick are at this moment 
being raised to replace existing structures of wood, is 



sufficient evidence of the belief of those concerned that 
a release from the ties attaching to imperial Cabinet 
property is at hand, and that it is on the verge of 
becoming a town. It may interest the British con- 
sumer to learn that at the present time this little set- 
tlement is exporting something like 54,000,000 lb. of 
butter a -year, part of which finds its way direct to 
London, while a considerable portion of the remainder 
passes through Denmark, where it is remade, finally 
reaching the London market as " best Danish butter." ^ 
Between this point and Lake Baikal, a distance 
of 1173|- miles, lies the middle link of the Siberian 
railway. Seated in an easy - chair in the comfort- 
able saloon of the " International," which runs once 
a-week from Moscow to Irkutsk, you gaze out on 
an almost uninterrupted expanse of pine, fir, and 
birch, in the midst of which the occasional small 
clearings where settlers have built themselves houses 
and tilled the land are dwarfed into insignificance. 
The vast gloomy depths of a limitless virgin forest 
confront you on every side, and the three days' 
struggle which you enter upon to free yourself 
from the monotony of unending forest is a futile 
one, for from first to last fir, pine, and birch are 
gloriously triumphant, forcing upon you a sense of 
your own insignificance and of their unquestioned 

As day fades into night after leaving the Ob, 
the gloomy jungle opens for a space, and you 
glide slowly into Taigar. A few years ago Taigar 
was what its name still suggests — virgin forest. 

^ The dairy -farming industry, with special reference to the manufacture 
of butter for export, has in a few years made rapid strides in Western 
Siberia, which now exports annually to Baltic ports for shipment abroad 
butter to the value of over £3,500,000. 



Now it is the junction for Tomsk, which lies on 
a branch line 59 miles to the north, and wears 
an air of importance in consequence. The line 
expands mysteriously into a dozen sidings, red 
wooden buildings with green roofs spring up all 
round, numerous engines with quaint bulbous-shaped 
spark-arresters surmounting their funnels — for wood 
still forms the greater part of the fuel on the 
Siberian railway — puff officiously up and down, 
while a large brick engine - house shelters a dozen 
more. Long rows of red waggons occupy many of 
the sidings, with here and there a water - tank 
among them. And thereby hangs a tale, for 
Taigar, to say the least of it, was inconsiderately 
chosen, there being practically no water, and the 
supply having consequently to be brought by rail. 
Indeed the whole line seems to have been built 
with an astonishing lack of foresight. The water- 
supply in many cases appears to have been con- 
sidered only after the rails were laid, the rails 
themselves were far too light for what was re- 
quired of them, and were speedily replaced by 
heavier ones, which in their turn are proving all 
too light for the amount of traffic which has 
rapidly sprung up. No provision was made when 
the embankments were thrown up for the future 
doubling of the line ; the cuttings are so narrow 
and so steep that you expect every shower to 
bring a ton of earth rolling down on to the line, 
and all the bridges have been built to admit only 
of a single rail. No doubt the traffic, which sprang 
up as if by magic, far exceeded all calculations, 
and while work is being pushed forward to enable 
the existing line to cope with the demands made 
upon it, such as the replacing of the wooden 



bridges across small streams by superior erections 
of stone and the addition of sidings at all the 
larger^'' stations, the necessity of doubling the line 
is under consideration. In this connection it may 
be mentioned that, in view of the difficulties which 
stand in the way of doubling the existing line, 
serious consideration is likely to be given to a 
scheme which has been suggested, for building an 
entirely separate line at a considerable distance to 
the north. In such a scheme would lie the sal- 
vation of Tomsk. 

Beyond Taigar the line passes by several towns 
of importance — Mariinsk, Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk, and 
Kansk — while gradually passing from the level plains 
of Western Siberia into the more mountainous lands 
of the districts of Yeniseisk and Irkutsk. Here the 
configuration of the country has been followed with 
ridiculous faithfulness, the result being a succession 
of curves, over which our pace, attaining at the 
best a modest average of twenty miles an hour, 
becomes a crawl. To the uninitiated, indeed, the 
serpentine alignment appears wholly unnecessary, 
recalling vivid impressions of the twists and turns 
of another railway nearer home, which is said to 
have lined the pockets of a certain baron of Hebraic 
descent, while at the same time rendering him an 
object of anathema on the shores of the Golden 

Long before Irkutsk is reached the monotony of 
the journey is brought home to one, for there is 
little to divert one's attention on the way. Once 
we passed another " International " on its way back 
from Irkutsk, and greetings were exchanged before 
we moved on, and sometimes we overtook trains 
carrying convicts, easily recognisable by their closely 



barred windows. At every wayside station we jumped 
out in company with our fellow-passengers — Germans, 
Russians, Frenchmen, Swedes, and Danes — to stretch 
our legs during the liberal waits, and on one occa- 
sion two of our companions indulged in a little mild 
revolver practice in the forest close by, by way of 
passing the time ! At last, however, on the morn- 
ing of the fourth day after leaving Ob, we ran into 
a large suburb with busy station harbouring a number 
of trains, crept cautiously across the Angara by a 
wooden bridge plastered with notices forbidding smok- 
ing, and liberally supplied with barrels of water, to 
draw up finally alongside of the stone buildings of 
the station of Irkutsk beyond. 

The train goes on for another forty odd miles to 
Baikal ; but Irkutsk is worthy of some remark, and 
before continuing my journey across the great lake 
and through Manchuria, I must conclude this chapter 
by devoting a few words to it. 

Irkutsk, like most towns in a new country, began 
life in a humble way. One Ivan Pakhoboff reached 
the river Irkut in 1652 while engaged in collecting 
tribute from the Buriats in the shape of furs, and 
established an intrenched post on its banks, where- 
fore it is called Irkutsk to this day. It was not 
destined, however, to remain on its original site, for 
it was afterwards transferred to the banks of the 
Angara, and in 1686 became a town. Now it is the 
second city in all Siberia, and far the most imposing in 
appearance, the seat of a governor-general of 2,807,626 
square miles of territory, the proud possessor of up- 
wards of sixty houses of worship, of the very credit- 
able number of forty-five educational institutions, of 
an admirable museum, of a theatre that cost close 
upon £30,000, and of a gold-smelting laboratory which 



has smelted since it came into being in 1870 the very 
respectable amount of 643 J tons of gold, having a 
probable value of upwards of £80,000,000 sterling. 
And now, to show how its citizens have thriven, it 
is about to erect a statue to the late Emperor at a 
cost of 300,000 roubles or £31,915. 

Many of the buildings are fine structures, the main 
streets and market-square provide splendid shops, and 
the cathedral, standing somewhat apart in an open 
space, is magnificent, and it is only when you reach 
the slums and descend abruptly from well-kept streets 
and stately mansions to cesspools, dust -heaps, and 
squalid shanties that you remember that you are in 
an Asian town. One night I witnessed a performance 
at the theatre, and the acting struck me as very 
good — and indeed I should be a good judge, for I 
understood no word of what was said ! The museum 
of the East Siberian Branch of the Russian Geographical 
Society is a fine building, and contains much that is 
worth seeing. I saw specimens of marble, lapis-lazuli, 
coal, graphite, and other minerals from the district ; 
mammoth bones and tusks ; the skeleton of a pre- 
historic man; shells, insects, snakes, fish, and, what 
is especially striking, the very fine collection of 
Buddhist specialities. The library is well stocked with 
periodicals from English, American, German, and French 
societies, and contains books in many languages besides 

Perhaps the object of chief interest to the traveller 
is the gold- smelting laboratory. Originally the yearly 
average weight of gold which passed through the 
laboratory at Irkutsk amounted to 54,000 lb. In 
recent years, however, laboratories have been estab- 
lished at Nicholaewsk and Blagovestchensk of blood- 
stained fame, and yet a third is being created at 



Bodaibo, so that in future a fifth of that amount 
is all that is looked forward to.^ The mines from 
which Irkutsk at present draws its chief supply are 
those of the Lena Company, with an average annual 
output of 9000 lb., and of the Imperial Cabinet in 
Transbaikalia, with a yield of 5040 lb. The gold law, 
until quite recently, was stringent, all gold-dust having 
under pain of penalty to be sold to the Government. 
Now, however, this law has been repealed, and the free 
sale of gold is everywhere legal. 

The process of smelting is an interesting one. I 
was conducted into a large room having all the 
appearance of a chemical laboratory. Presently a 
number of sealed leather bags were brought in con- 
taining the raw material, and after these had been 
carefully weighed and opened, the gold was mixed 
with borax, poured into graphite crucibles, and placed 
in the furnace for half an hour. The molten metal 
was then poured into moulds, and the resultant ingots 
stored in the strong-room prior to their being despatched 
to St Petersburg. At the time of my visit I saw in- 
gots with a total weight of 5400 lb. thus stored. The 
gold is valued at from 18,000 to 21,000 roubles a pud, 
or, roughly, at from £53 to £62 a pound, and after it 
is weighed and analysed a certificate is issued to the 
owners, which can be cashed at any state bank. The 
gold from the Amur is the purest, containing, after 
smelting, 96 per cent of pure gold, that from the Lena 
mines showing from 9 If to 93|- per cent of pure metal. 

It would be easy to write at length of the many 
buildings and objects of interest of Irkutsk ; I spent 
a most instructive morning at the fine technical school, 

1 For the output of Western Siberia there have long been laboratories at 
Barnaul — the oldest in Siberia — and Tomsk, and recently also one at Kras- 



and an interesting afternoon at a celebrated monastery 
a little distance from the town, to mention but two 
of the many institutions of which it can boast. But 
were I to do so this volume, already sufficiently swollen, 
would become expanded to an altogether unwarrantable 
size, and I have perhaps said enough to show that 
the large cities of Siberia have been built and fostered 
with a due sense of the responsible position which it 
will undoubtedly be their lot to occupy some day. 





Russia's coup — The line to pass through Manchuria — Great Britain's 
reply — The Manchurian railway agreement — A journey over the 
Manchurian railway in the autumn of 1903 — Across Lake Baikal — 
The frontier of Manchuria — Calibre of the line — Kharbin — Military 
occupation — Article II. of the Manchurian Convention of 1902 — The 
ambitions of Kharbin — Magnificent crops — Dalni — Port Arthur — 
Russia's outlay in Manchuria — Niuchwang — The Boxer outbreak 
Russia's opportunity — The situation at Niuchwang at the outbreak of 
hostilities — Mukden and Antung opened to foreign trade — Peking 
the end of the journey. 

Once upon a time it was supposed that the Trans- 
Siberian railway was to be built entirely through 
Russian territory. East of Lake Baikal it was to 
run in a more or less straight line to Kharbarofsk, 
whence a line has been built to Vladivostok ; and 
in the meanwhile, before the line was completed, 
the waterway of the Amur was to be used as the 
connecting-link in the communications between Russia 
and the Pacific. Russian statesmen, no doubt, knew 
better, though they kept their knowledge to them- 
selves ; and even people who were not Russian states- 
men, but who had made themselves acquainted with 
Russian aims and Russian methods, spoke sceptically 
of the section through the mountainous regions of the 



Amur/ and of the ice-bound terminus of Vladivostok, 
and watched events in interested anticipation. Nor 
were they disappointed at the sequel. For before 
very long Russia sprung upon the world one of those 
masterpieces of diplomacy which she alone is capable 
of perpetrating. The line did not pass through the 
Amur region at all, but ran along through a much 
easier country belonging to Russia's neighbour, and 
in addition to linking up Vladivostok with Moscow, 
forged its way to the south through another man's 
land till it reached Port Arthur, a terminus in far 
warmer water than Vladivostok, and possessing a 
situation conveniently adjacent to the capital of the 
Celestial Empire and seat of political activity in the 
Far East. 

British diplomacy, it is true, for once rose to the 
occasion, and secured for Great Britain the lease of 
Wei-hai-Wei, a harbour which, as a matter of fact, 
completely commands Port Arthur ; but the advantage 
thus obtained was hastily and gratuitously thrown 
away when it was made known that it had been 
decided not to fortify it, and the sole advantage which 
we now reap from our position is that in occupying it 
ourselves we prevent any one else more aggressively 

1 I am not personally acquainted with the region through which such a 
line would have had to pass, but it is admitted on all sides that the Amur 
section could of itself have had no value, and would consequently be looked 
upon merely as a necessity for completing the communication between 
Stretensk and Khabarofsk. The position is put plainly by Vladimir in 
his ' Eussia on the Pacific,' when he says : " Here we have about 2000 
versts to be constructed through dense forests, across big rivers, often 
away from all population, under rigorous climatic conditions, with a frozen 
soil requiring to be laboriously broken up. Moreover, the local conditions 
do not warrant the heavy expenses necessary for the work ; the population 
of the Amur province amounts only to 115,000 inhabitants, and the country 
is mostly uncultivated ; many years must pass before the trade of the 
people, all living on the banks of the river, and already provided with 
regular steamer service, will require a railway." 



inclined from doing so. There is every sign that the 
decision was come to in haste and in contradiction 
to a former determination, since five admirably and 
scientifically constructed forts were built on the island 
at the mouth of the harbour at a cost of £25,000 ; but 
the rescission of the order to fortify the place having 
gone forth before the guns which had already been 
shipped were able to reach their destination, they stand 
to-day — powerless either for offence or defence — as 
glaring illustrations of official fatuity and vacillation. 

The main incidents of the diplomatic coup which led 
up to the construction of the Manchurian railway are 
now a matter of history. The Liaotung peninsula 
ceded to Japan, " in perpetuity and full sovereignty, 
with all fortifications, arsenals, and public property 
thereon," by a vanquished China ; the remonstrance 
of an indignant Russia — indignant that the peace of 
the Far East should be threatened by the occupation 
of Chinese territory by an alien Power ! The seizure 
by the expostulating Power two years later of the 
very country in question, and the prompt production 
of an agreement, signed more than two years before, 
sanctioning the construction by her of railways across 
Manchuria, are the main points in an interesting little 
story which throws an illuminating light upon Mus- 
covite methods, while it at the same time accords 
triumphant testimony to the success of Muscovite 

The agreement in question, drawn up between the 
Russo- Chinese Bank and the Chinese Government, 
provides for the forming of a company described as 
the " East Chinese Railway Company," to construct a 
line across Manchuria from west to east, connected 
with the Trans -Baikal line on the one hand and 
the South Ussuri line on the other, with a branch 



known as the South Manchurian line running from 
Kharbin on the main line to Dalni and Port Arthur. 
Shares in the company can only be held by Kussian 
and Chinese subjects, a rebate of ^ of the Chinese 
custom duties is allowed on goods imported and ex- 
ported across the northern frontier by rail, the com- 
pany have rights over a strip of territory on either 
side of the line, and are entitled to keep as many 
troops along it as are considered necessary for its 
protection. The resultant railway is now a link in 
the great overland route to the Far East. 

With this very brief reminder of the birth and 
growth of the Manchurian railway, and without for 
the present entering upon any wider discussion of the 
Manchurian question, let me give a description of a 
journey over it in the autilmn of 1903. 

At 10 A.M. on September 24 we steamed out of Irkutsk, 
and by midday had covered the forty-two miles which 
lay between us and the station of Baikal, built on the 
shores of the lake of the same name. Here we had to 
leave our carriage and embark on the steamer Angara, 
for the circum-Baikal branch was only in process of 
construction, and though its completion was oJBScially 
predicted for January 1904, the officials responsible for 
the prediction were the only people who believed even 
ostensibly in its possible fulfilment. The large ice- 
breaker Baikal, which accommodates whole trains on 
board, and is capable of cutting its way through 2 feet 
of solid ice, is used only for goods trains, passengers 
being taken across on the smaller boat, which is said to 
be capable of travelling through from 16 to 18 inches 
of ice. Both vessels were constructed at the Arm- 
strong works, and brought out in pieces and fitted up 
on the lake, as was also a floating dock, which has, 
however, so far proved a failure. The smaller boat on 



which we crossed is fitted with triple - expansion en- 
gines of 176 effective horse-power; but as a result of 
the feverish haste with which Russia hurried on her 
arrangements for transporting troops to Manchuria 
in 1900, the boilers were not properly lined, and 
are now in a precarious condition, one of them being 
actually out of work. The speed attained averages 
about 10 knots, and at 7.45 p.m., four hours after 
starting, we reached Missovaiya, the present starting- 
point of the Trans-Baikal line. 

Here we found a train awaiting us, and for the next 
twenty -eight hours were borne through the wooded 
slopes of Trans-Baikalia to Chita. Beyond Chita the 
line continues to Stretensk on the upper reaches of the 
Amur ; but at the junction of Karimskaia we turned 
south across a hungry-looking steppe beyond the forest 
zone to the little station which stands on the frontier of 
the most northern dependency of China, and bears the 
name of the country to which it gives access — Man- 
churia. It was dark when we drew up alongside of the 
platform of the frontier station, but there was a sug- 
gestive air of activity about our surroundings. A 
dozen instruments clicked noisily from the brightly lit 
telegraph -office, large red lights moving to and fro in 
the darkness outside suggested the active movement of 
rolling-stock, while the sound of a measured tread up 
and down where trains stood in the sidings, spoke un- 
mistakably of the presence of troops. Troops there 
were, trains full of them, forty men crowded into each 
of the big, red, covered-in goods waggons of which they 
were composed. Eastward bound? No doubt, but a 
zealous sentry peremptorily ordered off a too inquisitive 
passenger, and their destination remained a mystery. 

When daylight broke we were travelling through a 
mountainous country, and later on climbed to the summit 



of the Khingan range and descended again on the far 
side by a laborious zigzag, taking an hour and fifty-five 
minutes to cover a distance of ten miles. No one but a 
Russian engineer could ever have evolved so cumbrous 
and intricate a method of surmounting a mountain- 
range, and even he has at last done what any one else 
would have done at the outset — made a tunnel through 
it. Mountains are the bugbear of the Russian. He 
has none to speak of in his own country, and he does 
not understand them when he comes across them else- 
where. It is perhaps fortunate for him, therefore, that 
he has not had to make a single tunnel between Moscow 
and Irkutsk. 

On the first opportunity I alighted to inspect the 
line and compare it with the Siberian track. The rails 
were certainly heavier, — perhaps 27 lb. to the foot, as 
compared with 18 on the Siberian sections, though still 
merely spiked down to the sleepers, and a powerful 
compound engine stood at the end of the five business- 
like armoured carriages — for east of the Baikal the cars 
are protected with |^-inch steel plate, capable of turning 
a bullet — in place of the light freight-engines used on 
the Siberian sections. 

Night found us still speeding through a mountainous 
country ; but when I awoke in the morning it was to 
gaze upon an absolute level, which gradually resolved 
itself from a grass-covered steppe into a sea of cultiva- 
tion. At midday on the 28th we reached Kharbin, a 
rapidly growing town, with large government-built — 
Russian Government of course — brick buildings spring- 
ing up in all directions. Military occupation stares you 
in the face here, and a large camp stands just to the 
south of the town ; but this is an exception. For the 
most part troops are not paraded along the line for the 
satisfaction of travellers, and one might travel along 



it without suspecting the presence of any excessive 
number. Nevertheless they are there. There are 
military posts at intervals of 5 versts the length of the 
line, barracks and stables are in process of construction 
at every station along the South Manchurian branch, 
and long lines of innocent-looking goods waggons on 
the sidings prove on closer inspection to be the tem- 
porary home of Russian soldiers. I was told on excel- 
lent authority that by July — three months, that is, 
before the promised final evacuation of the country — 
there were 200,000 Russian troops in the Far East.^ 
In August an additional twenty-three trains, bearing 
troops and military equipment, passed along the Siberian 
line eastward bound, and now a fortnight prior to the 
date fixed for the completion of the evacuation of 
Manchuria two more brigades were hurrying south 
from Chita, and an order had gone forth to replace all 
Chinese employees on the line, such as firemen, points- 
men, (fee, by Russian soldiers. 

Mobilisation everywhere ; the air was full of it. I 
read through Article ii. of the Manchurian Convention 
of April 1902: "Russia . . . consents on its part . . . 
to withdraw gradually all Russian troops from Man- 
churia, as follows : {a) Within six months from the 
signing of the Convention, from the south-western 
portion of Mukden province as far as the Liao river, at 
the same time restoring the railway to China ; (6) 
during the six months following — i.e., between October 
8, 1902, and April 8, 1903 — from the remaining portion 
of Mukden province and Kirin province ; (c) during the 
six months following — i.e., between April 8, 1903, and 

^ This estimate has since been confirmed by Mr J. W. Davidson, U.S. 
consul at Formosa, who said in December, " Every place of importance on 
and off the railroad is held by troops, whose number, inclusive of the gar- 
rison of Vladivostok, is not less than 200,000. " 




October 8, 1903 — Russia will withdraw her troops from 
the remaining province of Heh-lung-kiang." And then 
I looked at the military activity all round me, at the 
vast military encampment which stretched away to the 
south, at those rows of significant red waggons, on each 
of which was written, so that he who runs might read, 
the fateful words, " forty men or eight horses," and at 
their perspiring, expectant, tightly packed occupants. 
And I thought of the hecatombs of Russian assurances 
in the past, and wished that those good people who are 
so anxious to invite our Indian neighbours to occupy 
commanding positions on our flank in the Persian Gulf 
and elsewhere were with me to see it all too. Actual 
experience is so much more realistic than paper theories 
concocted in an editor's office. Of course, there have 
been assurances about Manchuria — stacks of them. The 
assurance of Count Lamsdorfi*, given through the Russian 
Ambassador on August 12, 1903, that '*the evacuation 
of Manchuria was to take place at an early date, 
although that date could not exactly be fixed," was a 
particularly interesting one under the circumstances ! 

The town of Kharbin is naturally destined to become 
an important centre, if only from its situation on the 
Sungari river, as the junction of the South Manchurian 
line with the main trans-continental railway ; but there 
is also every sign of administrative zeal to push the 
place artificially into prominence. The administrative 
portion of the town is being rapidly covered with well- 
paved streets, and handsome buildings, including a fine 
railway- station and a big hotel, — which will, at any rate 
in the first instance, be run by the railway company, or 
under the auspices of the Russo-Chinese Bank, — are 
being feverishly carried to completion. An administra- 
tive building costing £110,000 and engine-shops costing 
£251,000 are in course of erection, and a hospital is 



being built at an outlay of £42,000. No one but 
Russians or Chinese are permitted to own land, con- 
struct buildings, or engage in any permanent enter- 
prise, and the land for many miles round has been 
secured, so as to make it impossible for any foreign 
influence to obtain a foothold close to the city. The 
Eusso- Chinese Bank and the commercial department of 
the Russo- Chinese railway are the commercial powers 
in Manchuria. They buy and sell produce, and leave 
little room apparently for the individual or private 
trader to compete with any profit. Amongst the in- 
dustries, Mr Miller, U.S. consul at Niuchwang, men- 
tions flour-mills, brick manufacturing, breweries, meat- 
packing establishments, bean - oil, confectionery, and 
saw-mills. At the time of my visit two large steam 
flour-mills were in operation, and three more were being 
laid down. It is possible that these may pay, but they 
were all built or building on credit, and on conditions of 
full mortgage to the firms supplying the machinery ; 
and it must be borne in mind that millet is the staple 
food of the native population, and they do not want 
it milled for them.^ The commercial and residential 
quarters are meanwhile left to individual enterprise, 
and, as my travelling companion remarked, " following 
usual Russian precedent, no doubt a very long time will 
elapse before that part of Kharbin emerges from the 
chrysalis state of wooden or sun-dried brick shanties, 
impassable roads, and interior and exterior filth." On 
the whole, artificial " and " subsidised " are the words 
which suggest themselves in connection with Kharbin, 
and when Mr Miller wrote that "it is in this city more 

1 Mr Davidson, however, already quoted, says : " The production of 
wheat in Manchuria is increasing to a phenomenal degree, and its manu- 
facture into flour is very profitable. The city of Kharbin alone will from 
the beginning of 1904 produce 800,000 lb. of flour daily.'' 



than in all the others combined that Russia is asserting 
her intentions of becoming an active industrial force in 
the affairs of the Orient," he would have given a more 
strictly accurate idea of the existing conditions if he 
had substituted for "Russia" the words Russian 

South of Kharbin spread masses and masses of millet, 
extending mile after mile as far as the eye can see. 
Little else, in fact, is visible, — occasional clumps of trees 
looking like little green dots in a bronze- brown sea, and 
the villages themselves being half-buried in the sur- 
rounding crops. For two days and nights we steam 
through crops such as are in all probability to be 
seen nowhere else in the world, passing Mukden, the 
capital of the country ; Ta-Shih-Chiao, the junction 
for Niuchwang and Peking, where only so lately as 
August the line had been washed away by floods, and 
all traffic suspended for nine days in consequence; to 
pull up at length on the shores of the Pacific at 
Dalni, striving so desperately to become a thriving 
commercial port, or at the great military and naval 
base of Port Arthur. 

Dalni, as the Russians have christened the town 
which they have built on the bay of Taliewan, has all 
the appearance of a modern town, and does credit to its 
creators and owners, the Russian Ministry of Finance. 
A few years ago there was nothing. The order went 
forth that there must be a town, and a town accord- 
ingly was put in hand. Houses were built, brick 
houses such as you would expect to see in any 
modern watering-place, except fot their roofs, which 
show a tendency towards the curves which distin- 
guish Chinese architecture ; streets were laid out 
and paved, harbour works were begun, offices, shops, 
and a magnificent electric station, fitted by a Buda- 



Pesth firm, to give light to the future citizens and 
drive the motors at the dock workshops, were erected, 
and, lo and behold, the order was fulfilled ! It next 
became necessary that people should be induced to 
occupy the new town, and Dalni was made a free port. 
Port charges were likewise introduced at Port Arthur 
on all trading vessels that entered that harbour ; but in 
spite of everything Dalni has up to the present failed 
to vindicate its right to the title of a successful com- 
mercial town. The greater part of the town in fact is 
at present composed of the administrative quarter built 
and reserved for tenancy by the government and muni- 
cipal ofiicials and employees, the ground marked out 
for residential and commercial quarters remaining for 
the most part unclaimed and unbuilt, the reason being 
the absence of any real development of commercial 
activity with the interior, such trade as there is being 
bound up with government contracts or based upon the 
market afforded by the naval, military, or railway 

Port Arthur is, of course, essentially a naval base, 
and on my arrival I found everything given up to 
naval and military preparation. Gangs of coolies could 
be seen at work on fortifications on the hills which 
surround the town, and all building and commercial 
activity had been turned into government channels, 
the building and fitting of government stores occupying 
the attention of the authorities. The harbour is not a 
very large one, and is in places extremely shallow, 
though this defect has now been remedied to a certain 
extent by extensive dredging, and I saw one large dry 
dock which looked capable of accommodating large 
vessels. In another direction I observed the work- 
sheds which had been built for piecing together de- 
stroyers ; but on the whole the traveller will not dis- 



cover a great deal that is of interest, — he, of course, 
cannot visit the things which are of real interest, such 
as fortifications, &c., — and finding the miserable shanties 
which served for hotels a trial to both mind and body, 
I soon shook the dust of its streets from my feet, and 
steamed across the water to the treaty port of Chifu, 
on the opposite shore of the gulf 

There is one thing, I think, which cannot fail to strike 
the traveller in Manchuria, and that is the dispropor- 
tionately small return which has so far accrued to Russia 
for her vast expenditure in that country. The engineer 
in charge of the construction of Russian railways in 
Manchuria informed Mr Miller, the United States 
consul at Niuchwang, that £27,000,000 had been ex- 
pended in railway construction alone ; and when we add 
to this the cost of fortifications and construction in Port 
Arthur, Dalni, Kharbin, &c., — it is said that bribes to 
the extent of 2,000,000 taels (roughly, £288,600) were 
administered in obtaining the lease of Port Arthur, — 
and the expenditure involved in keeping large numbers 
of troops in the country, the disbursement so far must 
have amounted to anything from 50 to 100 millions. 
And what has she received in return ? An increased 
power of dictation in the affairs of China perhaps, but 
in addition a naval base which, though superior in some 
respects to a more northern port, is admittedly far from 
ideal — a commercial port which has been aptly described 
as still-born ; and, to crown all, a war which, whatever 
be its final issue, can never surely be anything but 
disastrous to a country in the present stage of financial 
and economic development of Russia. It is, in fact, the 
unexpectedly resolute action of Japan, following upon 
the Anglo-Japanese alliance, which has seriously upset 
the calculations of Russian statesmen, and which must 
have a strong modifying effect upon the whole trend of 


events in the Far East. It is as yet impossible to say 
what may take place at the termination of a war the 
result of which no one can foresee ; but it is well to 
observe, when considering the present lack of tangible 
return for expenditure involved, the measures which 
Russia had taken to secure her position in the future 
— a position which, but for the unwelcome rupture in 
diplomatic relations, she would most undoubtedly have 

In the first place, then, those who ridiculed the 
policy of sinking vast capital sums in territory which 
was only leased, even if the lease did extend for ninety- 
nine years, paid but a poor compliment to the astuteness 
of Russian diplomatists. Those responsible knew per- 
fectly well what they were doing, for they knew that 
they had a master clause in the treaty leasing them the 
land for the railway, which constituted them in reality 
the owners of the soil. And that clause, according to 
the French explorer M. Chaifaujon, reads as follows : 
" If at the expiration of ninety-nine years China desires 
to enter into possession of the line, she must refund to 
the Company all the expenses of construction and main- 
tenance of the line from the first." The account, we 
may safely presume, will be one which the Chancellor 
of the Chinese Exchequer in 1995 will hardly find it 
convenient to settle. So when Russia spends money 
on her Manchurian railway it is as a landowner and 
not as a tenant, and if she spends lavishly on her 
property she has excellent reasons for doing so. 

Secure in her railway property, the next thing was 
to secure the trade. I have referred to the strenuous 
efforts of the Russian authorities to attract the com- 
merce of Manchuria to Dalni, and I have also pointed 
out how they have failed. There was a very excellent 
reason why they should fail, and that reason was 



Niuchwang. Opened to commerce in accordance with 
the terms of the treaty of Tientsin in 1861, Niuchwang 
has become the fourth in importance of all the treaty- 
ports of China, and is to-day the commercial door to 
Manchuria. But the trade of Niuchwang was in the 
hands of British, American, and Japanese firms, and 
it became necessary to Bussian aspirations that this 
should be altered. And so when in 1898 the Bussian 
railway appeared upon the scene a large property a 
little distance from the foreign settlement was acquired 
through Ministerial pressure at Peking, and a branch 
line was built which was no doubt to have been severed 
as soon as Dalni had become the port of entry into 
Manchuria — Niuchwang thus being cut off beyond the 
hope of competition.^ No success, however, attended 
these schemes to substitute Dalni for Niuchwang as 
the commercial gateway of Manchuria, and Bussia was 
casting about in her mind for other methods when the 
Boxer outbreak of 1900 played most opportunely into 
her hands. 

It is not my intention here to go into the history 
of the Boxer rising of 1900 : all I wish to do is to 
recall its effect upon Bussian plans. The course of 
events in Pechili, and, to use the language of 'The 
Official Messenger,' published in St Petersburg on 
March 24 (April 6), 1901, "a series of acts of 
aggression committed by Chinese insurgents on the 
frontier of Bussia, rendered necessary the occupation 
of the port of Niuchwang and the entry of Bussian 

^ The plague bogey, which the Eussians have found so useful an instru- 
ment of obstruction against Indian trade in other parts of Asia, would 
probably have been the weapon called in here. After the Eussian occupa- 
tion of Niuchwang, the administrator, Mr Gross, told Consul Fulford that 
"Eussia must protect her railway, and might cut off the branch line to 
Niuchwang in the event of epidemics unless proper control were allowed." — 
Parliamentary Paper, China No. 2, 1904. 



troops into Manchuria " ; and though repeated pledges 
were given that such occupation was only a tem- 
porary measure, and a Convention was signed in April 
1902 regulating the gradual evacuation of the country, 
the temptation to retain the port which was of such 
vital importance to their schemes was found when 
the time came to be too strong for Russian states- 
men, and, in spite of diplomatic pressure brought to 
bear by Great Britain and other Powers interested 
in the matter, the curtain which rose on the drama 
of 1904 displayed to the world the too familiar scene 
of Russia in triumphant possession of the stage — 
superbly contemptuous of the injured protestations of 
her vanquished rivals at the sheaves of dishonoured 
promises and engagements, at the expense of which 
she had secured her position. She had yet to learn 
that a little Power had risen in the East, which, by 
standing firm to its word and refusing to throw down 
its hand before Russian bluff, proved itself a match 
for Russian duplicity. And the lesson has not yet 
been completed. 

The situation at Niuchwang at the time of the com- 
mencement of hostilities has been accurately summed 
up by Mr H. Fulford Bush, in a paper read before 
the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, as follows : ''A 
Russian administrator, backed by Russian troops, in 
place of the Chinese authorities ; the custom-house, 
with the Russian administrator at its local head ; the 
revenue paid into the Russo- Chinese Bank, pending 
Russia's settlement with China; the sanitary control 
Russian, in all matters affecting the Chinese ; Russian 
prestige and power paramount ; the province a prey 
to the brigands and riffraff generally ; the usual trade 
channels impeded and obstructed by the confusion and 
disruption prevailing throughout the province ; and a 



gradual diminution in the export of light sundries, the 
trade in which the Russian authorities were doing their 
utmost to divert towards Russia." 

In other words, the bear's claws had closed over the 
victim, which was to be strangled or absorbed as the 
future might dictate. The calculations upon which 
such action was based have, as I have already pointed 
out, been rudely and, from the Russian point of view, 
unexpectedly shaken by the resolute action of Japan, 
and further by the courage of China, which has grown 
from that action, and which decided her, in face of 
violent opposition from Russia, to open the towns of 
Mukden and Antung to foreign trade. In what exact 
proportions the balance of power in the Far East will 
be readjusted at the expiration of the present war it 
is impossible to say ; but of this much we may rest 
assured — that, in the event of the success or partial 
success of our ally, British trade and intercourse will 
be delivered from the shadow of that cloud which 
was rapidly spreading from the north, and which the 
diplomatic efforts of our own statesmen showed them- 
selves powerless to dispel. 

From Port Arthur and Chifu I travelled on to 
Tientsin and Peking, and later spent some time at 
Wei-hai-Wei before leaving for Japan ; but in the 
Celestial capital, which has been described too often 
and too well to require any further comment from 
my pen, the immediate objective of my journey across 
Asia was achieved : and for the purposes of this book 
I take my leave of the reader, as far as the narrative 
of travel is concerned, within the massive walls of the 
Chinese capital, which, thanks to improved communica- 
tions in recent years, has opened its gates to the 
curiosity of the world, and has therefore at last ceased 
to be answerable to the charge of " not making itself 



intelligible or interesting to mankind other than as 
an archaic curiosity." ^ If he be imbued with a pleas- 
ing imagination, it will be beneath the shadow of the 
pagoda, or in view of the gaudeous outlines of the 
Temple of Heaven, or listening perhaps to the rolling 
sound of the Buddhist litanies, chanted in unison by 
the yellow -robed inmates of the great Lama temple, 
that he will wish me farewell, rather than, as truth 
might compel me to admit, ploughing my way along 
those " receptacles of indescribable abominations, where 
the dust is acrid to nose and eyes, from the dessicated 
refuse of generations," ^ which serve for streets in a 
" wilderness of garbage." ^ Let it be so. It is as the 
home of sunshine and romance, of temples and palaces, 
of dazzling colour and bewildering animation, of men 
and manners that set soaring the imagination, of mys- 
terious priests and titled kings, rather than as the 
seat of poverty and vice, of squalor and sordid mate- 
rialism — of all, in fact, that is of the earth earthy — 
that I prefer to look back upon the cities of the East. 

1 The Englishman in China. Alexander Michie. 

2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 


"The problem of Asia is a world problem, which has come upon the 
world in an age when, through the rapidity of communication, it is wide- 
awake and sensible as never before, and by electrical touch, to every 
stirring in its members, and to the tendency thereof." 

— Captain A. T. Mahan, The Problem, of Asia, 



England and Russia in the East — The point of view from which Asiatic 
questions must be regarded — " Without India the British Empire 
could not exist " — The value of prestige — The commercial and 
strategic aspects of the Near Eastern and the Far Eastern questions 
— Turkey — The long-standing antagonism between Russia and 
Turkey — Enter Germany — A novel solution of the Turkish imbroglio 
— The Baghdad railway — Persia — Resemblance between the Persian 
and Turkish problems — Indiiference of Great Britain in the past — 
The financial blunder of 1900 — The Russo-Persian railway agreement 
of 1890 — A policy adopted — The Viceroy's visit to the Persian Gulf 
and the Garter Mission to Teheran — The Koweit incident — Ways and 
communications — Activity in the field of commerce — The Nushki- 
Sistan route — The British Government should become shareholders 
in the Imperial Bank of Persia — The recrudescence of British 

When embarking upon the task which lies before me 
in the concluding chapters of the present volume — in 
making, that is, an attempt to analyse the situation as 
it affects Great Britain in Asia — I find myself con- 
fronted with a dilemma at the very outset. For to 
give a comprehensive exposition of the problems which 
await solution at the hands of Great Britain in the 
East would require far greater space than can here be 
given to it, while any attempt to deal briefly with a 
number of questions, each one of which carries in its 
train a whole host of subsidiary ramifications, must 
necessarily provide innumerable loopholes for misunder- 
standing. Nevertheless, since there is no alternative, 



the attempt must be made, an elementary acquaintance 
with Asian affairs being necessarily presupposed on 
behalf of the reader. 

In the opening chapter of this book I have been at 
pains to point out that as the kingdoms of the East 
have slowly but surely sunk into a decline, they have 
naturally been absorbed by, or fallen under the segis of, 
that Power which by its geographical position was 
brought into contact with them — Russia. It is equally 
clear that without geographical juxtaposition command 
of the sea could alone give to a Western nation do- 
minion in the East, and it was naval supremacy in 
conjunction with commercial activity that gave an 
Eastern empire to another European Power — Great 
Britain. So it is " England and Russia in the East," 
the title that appears upon the backs of a whole host 
of books written upon the subject during recent years, 
that sums up the Eastern phase of the past century. 
The exclusive claims of the two nations must inevitably 
undergo modification in the future, since the awaken- 
ing of Japan, the commercial rivalry of Western 
nations, notably of Germany, and the improved com- 
munications which have opened up the markets of the 
Eastern world of late years, have introduced additional 
competing forces into the arena ; but nevertheless, 
with every allowance made for the ambitions of other 
Powers, the one nation that confronts England now, as 
in the past, whether it be across the waters of the 
Euxine, or over the crumpled outline of the Persian 
highlands, or from behind the rugged buttresses of her 
Indian stronghold that she directs her gaze, is and for 
long must continue to be Russia. Whose were the 
war-hardened legions that rattled at the portals of 
Constantinople and shook the Ottoman Empire to its 
foundations while England looked on aghast ? — 



Russia's ! Whose the serried ranks that a century 
ago were to have been hurled against the bastions of 
India, whose the insinuating diplomacy that is even 
now undermining the glacis of our Indian fort, preparing 
the ground for the lodgment of a hostile force, and 
opening out an avenue of approach whereby to render 
us vulnerable to a flank attack ? — Russia's ! Whose 
the grey-clad sentinel who through all the clash of 
conflicting interests stands threateningly on the shores 
of the Eastern Sea, a menace to British commercial 
aspirations and to the peace of the nations of the 
world ? The answer is for ever the same — Russia's ! 

And so the antagonism and the irreconcilable nature 
of the ambitions of Great Britain and Russia form one 
leading factor to be borne in mind when reviewing the 
problem of Asia ; and there is yet another, the point of 
view from which Asiatic questions should be regarded. 
For as India is the pivot of British supremacy in the 
East, so questions dealing with the East should be 
looked at largely from an Indian point of view. A half- 
way house between Great Britain and Australia, New 
Zealand and the Far East ; a stronghold in the long 
line of communications that weld together the com- 
ponent parts of a widely scattered whole; the home 
and raison d'etre of British power in Asia, — India oc- 
cupies a unique position among the constituent parts of 
empire. "It is not intrinsically only," writes Captain 
Mahan, "that India possesses the value of a base to Great 
Britain ; the central position which she holds relatively 
to China and to Egypt obtains also towards Australia 
and the Cape of Good Hope, assisting thus the concen- 
tration upon her of such support as either colony can 
extend to the general policy of an Imperial Federation." 
The safeguarding of India, then, must ever remain one 
of the cardinal articles of the belief of British states- 




men, for, as was long since observed by India's present 
Viceroy, " without India the British Empire could not 

It is well, therefore, before going further, since Asian 
problems depend for their solution so largely upon India, 
to define the position of that country from an interior 
point of view. This has been done by Lord Curzon, 
than whom there is no man living better qualified to 
pronounce, only so lately as the spring of the present 
year : " India is like a fortress, with the vast moat 
of the sea on two of her faces, and with mountains for 
her walls on the remainder ; but beyond those walls, 
which are sometimes of by no means insuperable height, 
and admit of being easily penetrated, extends a glacis 
of varying breadth and dimension. We do not want 
to occupy it, but we also cannot afford to see it occupied 
by our foes. We are quite content to let it remain in 
the hands of our allies and friends ; but if rival and un- 
friendly influences creep up to it and lodge themselves 
right under our walls, we are compelled to intervene, 
because a danger would thereby grow up that might 
one day menace our security. This is the secret of the 
whole position in Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, 
and as far eastwards as Siam. He would be a short- 
sighted commander who merely manned his ramparts 
in India and did not look out beyond ; and the whole 
of our policy during the past five years has been directed 
towards maintaining our influence, and to preventing 
the expansion of hostile agencies on this area which I 
have described." To preserve India free from danger, 
therefore, and not only India, but our line of communi- 
cations with India, Australia, and the Far East, it is 
necessary that those countries which border on India 
and impinge upon such communications should remain 
in the hands of friendly, or at any rate of innocuous, 



peoples, and be kept free from the control of a strong 
and possibly — probably — hostile Power. 

There are two more general points to be borne in 
mind — firstly, that in dealing with oriental races 
prestige is a factor the influence of which can hardly 
be overestimated ; and secondly, that whereas there 
is much that is common to both the Near Eastern and 
Far Eastern questions, there is this great difference, 
that while the one is in the main a political and 
strategic question, the other is equally in the main a 
commercial one. 

Instances of the effect of a falling or rising prestige 
can be quoted without end. In the low ebb of British 
influence in the councils of the Shah in the 'Eighties, 
Lord Curzon saw the shadow of the calamitous policy 
pursued by the British Government of 1880-85 in 
various parts of the Empire. " The retreat from South 
Africa, the evacuation of Kandahar, the everlasting 
disgrace of Khartum, the ' bolt ' from the Murghab, — 
all these incidents rang like a trumpet-blast through 
the whispering-galleries of the East, and were inter- 
preted as presages of an impending ruin." ^ A weak 
or magnanimous policy, which in the eyes of the 
Oriental are synonymous terms, is fatal, and calculated 
to invite disaster. In spite of the length of our 
experience in dealing with oriental races, we have yet 
fully to appreciate this fact, and to realise the difficulties 
which we sedulously lay up for ourselves by an obstinate 
refusal to observe it. The recent operations in Tibet 
add yet another example to the long list bequeathed 
to us by the past. Impressions of British impotence 
drawn from our almost inconceivable forbearance have 
sunk deep into the Tibetan mind, and are likely to be 
the cause of much trouble and loss of life, which, had 

^ Persia, vol ii. p. 606. 



we acted with less timidity and rather more common- 
sense at the outset, might well have been avoided. 
" We have in fact," writes Colonel Younghusband, " as 
I have so often remarked, not one ounce of prestige on 
this frontier. I have therefore nothing to work with 
in making a settlement." ^ 

Russian intelligence was not slow to grasp this fact, 
with a result that Russian dealings with native races 
show a marked superiority — if success be any criterion 
— over our own. " The native," to quote one of the 
most recent writers on the Russian advance, " soon 
understands that there is no trifling, and — usually — 
becomes resigned. He is given to understand un- 
mistakably what is Russian power." ^ Native races 
throughout the length of Asia from west to east who 
have once come into contact with Russia have perhaps 
disliked her, they have certainly feared her. " As the 
Daimios of Japan in their anti- foreign manifestoes 
declared that every foreigner could be insulted with 
impunity except the Russians, so in China the name 
was a talisman of security." ^ M. Popoff, the Russian 
secretary at Peking at the time of the Anglo-French 
expedition, had occasion to spend a night at a Chinese 
inn. Chinese soldiers swarmed in during the night, 
and finding a " foreign devil," at once decided to make 
an end of him. His salvation lay in his nationality. 
" That foreigner is a Russian," quoth the innkeeper ; 

it will be dangerous to lay a hand on him." ^ And 
M. Popofl" was left untouched. 

The last point which I mentioned with regard to the 
commercial and strategic element being the dominant 

1 Further Papers relating to Tibet (CD. 2054). 

2 The Russian Advance. A. J. Beveridge. 

3 The Englishman in China. A. Michie. 

4 Ibid. 



characteristic of the Far Eastern and Near Eastern 
questions respectively, is, of course, a general one. 
Commerce plays an important part in the Near East, 
and the Far East has its strategic aspect for us as well 
as its commercial side, more especially since we became 
the allies of Japan. Hongkong and Wei-hai-Wei are 
strategic bases, and the long access into the interior 
afforded by the Yangtse-Kiang is a valuable asset in 
the strategic capital of the Power which has command 
of the sea. But, broadly speaking, it may be said 
that the question of the Far East is, in the first in- 
stance, a commercial one, while the question of the 
Near East is a strategic one first and a commercial one 
afterwards ; and when a writer in * The Spectator ' of 
May 9, 1903, gave expression to his opinion that "a 
great war to guard our petty trade in the Persian Gulf 
would be a financial folly," he merely showed that he 
had entirely failed to grasp the real issues involved. 

Bearing in mind these brief generalisations, it re- 
mains for me to say a few words as to the situation in 
the different countries individually with which Great 
Britain is at the present time closely concerned. 


Beginning on the extreme west, we have the Turkish 
Empire, forming — thanks to its geographical position — 
the starting-point of that belt of territory of unsettled 
political status which stretches across Asia from west 
to east, and which merits the description of Captain 
Mahan of the debatable and debated ground." From 
the days when the germ of the Russian Empire first 
fell upon Bussian soil up to the present time an unin- 
terrupted antagonism has existed between the two 
countries. The peoples have changed but the antag- 



onism remains. The crescent and star of the ancient 
Greeks now blaze on the green banners of Islam, and 
the two-headed eagle of Byzantium is flaunted across 
Asia on the standards of a northern Power, while a 
Kussian Tsar sits on the throne of his Viking prede- 
cessors of a thousand years ago. Nevertheless, despite 
such changes of ownership, there is a curious similarity 
in the antaofonism of the two countries then and now, 
and when the Grand Duke Nicholas flouted Turkish 
authority in 1902, and, with a protesting Turkish 
official on board, steered the battleship Georgi Pobie- 
donosets derisively up the Golden Horn, he was un- 
wittingly repeating the insult flung at the city by his 
ancestor Oleg, ten centuries before, when he hung his 
shield on the gates of Byzantium in derision of its 

As the power of Russia has consolidated and in- 
creased, the vigour of the Turk, as of almost every 
other Asiatic nation, has proportionately declined, and 
it is thanks only to the rivalry of Western Powers 
that the sick man " still sits on the throne at Yildiz. 
For since Turkey is one of those states which impinge 
upon the eastern extremity of the Mediterranean, and 
is laved by the waters of the Persian Gulf, the integ- 
rity of Turkey " has of necessity been the watchword of 
British policy in this portion of the globe. Twice in 
the course of the past century has Russia let loose the 
dogs of war that she might get possession of the keys 
of the Bosphorus, and twice has Great Britain stepped 
forth to wrest them from her grasp — once in 1853 by 
appeal to the arbitrament of war, once again in 1878 
by aid of the masterful diplomacy of Lord Beaconsfield. 

As a result of this want of success Russia diverted 
her energy for the time being into other channels, and 
a whole crop of political questions in Central Asia 



immediately came into being ; but though frustrated 
for the time, she still looks with longing eyes at the 
object of her desire, and no chance which comes in the 
way of her astute and indefatigable diplomatists for 
oiling the wheels of her endeavour is ever allowed to 
pass by. 

In the meantime, however, another Power, which, 
in the days of the Berlin Conference, knew little of 
and cared less for the attractions of the Near East, 
has raised its voice in the councils of the Turk, and 
to-day the trumpet-blast of German ambition resounds 
through the streets of Constantinople. The blandish- 
ments of Count Hatzfeldt, and the ability and force of 
character of General von Goltz, paved the way for 
the magnetic personality of the Emperor William II., 
who was completely successful in securing the friend- 
ship of the Sultan, and with the royal visit to Con- 
stantinople in 1899 a third Power was hurried incon- 
tinently into the forefront of the theatre of Ottoman 
diplomacy and intrigue. 

Needless to say, Russia regarded with feelings of 
undisguised aversion this latest intruder in the field of 
her hereditary ambition, and the Russian censor has in 
nowise prevented Russian opinion from sounding loudly 
in the Russian press, and a novel solution of the Turk- 
ish imbroglio was a short time ago put tentatively 

A spark was to be applied to the Ottoman volcano, 
— that was necessary to create an excuse for active 
operations, — upon which Russia, with England's acqui- 
escence, should secure the Bosphorus, and England, 
Russia assenting, should secure Gallipoli and the 
command of the Dardanelles. With the Bosphorus in 
her possession, Russia would be content to leave the 
Mediterranean to others. With Gallipoli fortified and 



in British hands, no reasonable grounds for British 
suspicion of Russia in regard to the Mediterranean 
could exist. The dominating note which sounded 
throughout the whole suggestion was jealousy of Ger- 
many. " Germany," it ran, " has, it is true, made her 
appearance in the field. German intrigue at Constan- 
tinople has latterly been strongly in evidence, but the 
solution of the Russian problem can and will be found 
without particular reference to Germany. The Ger- 
mans may yet find that they might with profit have 
been content to wait inevitable developments around 
the Euxine before putting so many eggs into their 
Baghdad basket." 

The whole scheme is delightful, but — and they are 
rather big buts — despite the sanguine anticipations of 
its author, I am inclined to think that Germany would 
have a good deal to say in any such arrangement, to 
say nothing of the Turks, who might not unnaturally 
commit the mistake of supposing that they had some 
claim to a voice in the matter of the partition of their 
own country. Finally, all mention of the future of 
that vast portion of the Ottoman Empire which 
stretches from the Black Sea on the north to the Red 
Sea on the south, and from the Mediterranean on the 
west to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean on the 
east, is conveniently ignored. The head is to be 
severed, but what of the trunk ? " Where the carcass 
is, there will the eagles be gathered together." 

The Russian press, moreover, were at considerable 
pains to lay emphasis upon the incompatibility of 
British and German interests in general, and in con- 
nection with the Baghdad railway in particular, and 
the chorus of their congratulation, when the cold re- 
ception accorded to the scheme by the House of Com- 
mons in the spring of 1903 became known, was inde- 



corously loud. I have already dealt with this question 
at some length in a previous chapter, and there is no 
occasion for me to do more here than to emphasise 
what I have already said. Germany in sole and undis- 
puted control of Mesopotamia and the hinterland of 
the Persian Gulf would be bad ; but Eussia with her 
long land frontier, already stretching from Armenia 
to Chinese Turkestan, with its ingrained tendency 
towards expansion to the south, would be infinitely 
worse. I have already pointed out that of these two 
eventualities the chances are at present in favour of 
the first, and I have also pointed out how it lies in 
our power to modify such prospective position in our 
favour. There can be little doubt that the Baghdad 
railway will eventually be built, and it cannot be 
too strongly urged that the real reason why this 
country must participate in such a scheme should 
not be lost sight of That reason is no desire to 
pander to or inordinate affection for Germany, but 
the protection of our own interests. It is of vital 
importance that when the time comes for the British 
Government to reconsider the question of the Bagh- 
dad railway, they should secure for this country that 
voice in the councils of the Imperial Ottoman Rail- 
way Company which in her position she has every 
right to demand. So that, when the history of the 
question comes to be written, the next generation 
may accord to the present that measure of gratitude 
for securing to them a share of control of the land- 
route to the East, that the present accords to the 
past for a similar service rendered in connection with 
the sea-route, which ensured our present position with 
regard to the Suez Canal. 




The Persian question is by no means a new one. 
It has been in a state varying from comparative 
quiescence to feverish activity for more than a cen- 
tury, and receives spasmodic recognition from the 
British pubHc. The Shah indulges in a meteoric 
trip to Europe, and the world is all agog to cast a 
curious eye upon the " King of kings," and to learn 
something about what it hastily christens the " Per- 
sian problem." With his departure public interest 
ebbs, and except when some more than usually un- 
abashed violation of Persian territory or Persian 
prerogatives is perpetrated by her northern neigh- 
bour, which excites an ephemeral indignation in the 
British press, the crooked course of Persian progress 
is relegated willingly enough to the cabinets of 
statesmen and the chancellories of diplomatists. 
None the less is the path of Persian progress a diffi- 
cult and thorny way, for Persia, like China, is being 
irresistibly swept into the swirling vortex of world 

Generally speaking, the position of Persia as re- 
gards England and Bussia closely resembles that of 
Turkey, for Persia is the second of those countries 
with regard to which our policy has been " the 
maintenance of our predominant influence and the 
prevention of the expansion of hostile agencies." And 
it is all the more important from the fact that not 
only would a hostile Power in possession of Persia 
be disastrous to British and Indian trade with that 
country, but it would also render nugatory to some 
extent the advantages which accrue to us from our 
supremacy in the Persian Gulf, and would turn the 


flank of the land defences of our Indian Empire. 
" Concessions in the Persian Gulf, whether by posi- 
tive formal arrangement or by simple neglect of 
the local commercial interests which now under- 
lie political and military control, will imperil Great 
Britain's naval situation in the farther East, her 
political position in India, her commercial interests 
in both, and the imperial tie between herself and 
Australasia."^ Moreover, the blow to British prestige, 
none too high even now, would in such an eventuality 
be extremely dangerous, and shake to its foundations 
the whole structure of British dominion throughout 
the East.^ 

There is another point of resemblance between the 
two countries — the pitiable state of their present 
impotence as compared with the splendour of their 
past. Time was when the fame of a great Shah^ 
rang clarion-like through all lands, when a Russian 
Tsar thought it no dishonour to borrow from a Per- 
sian king,^ and when a monarch of Iran contemp- 
tuously ordered the impure footprints left by an 

^ The Persian Gulf and International Eelations. Captain A. T. Mahan. 

2 All who are acquainted with the East are well aware how sensitive an 
instrument is the pulse of public feeling in Asiatic countries. A corres- 
pondent writing from Quetta at the outset of hostilities in the Far East 
says : " It is extraordinary the exact information the people in the bazaars 
have of the relative forces of Russia and Japan. Our frontier men are 
keen politicians. . . . The firm alliance between Japan and Britain while 
Russia and Japan were evidently drifting into war, created the warmest 
feeling of admiration for our country, while it excited some astonishment. 
The result of the Japanese victories has been to raise British prestige 
higher than even a successful frontier campaign could have done." 

^ Shah Abbas the Great, under whom modern Persia reached its highest 
pinnacle of renown. 

* The Tsar Michael Romanoff was reduced to such straits in the first 
years of his reign that in 1617 he borrowed 7000 roubles from Shah 



English envoy on the soil of the sacred palace as 
he retired from the Persian Court to be effaced 
with a basin of sand ! ^ 

With the swing of the pendulum of time the tables 
have been rudely turned, the resources of Persia are 
heavily mortgaged to her former debtor, the antics of 
her court recall the buffooneries of an English sovereign 
when surprised, in the midst of frivolity and feasting 
in company with the ladies of his seraglio, by the 
thunder of the guns of Holland in the Medway and 
the Thames, and, far from the "impure footprints" 
being effaced, an ill-disguised impatience was exhibited 
for the arrival of the expected envoy, bearing a coveted 
decoration from England's king. 

It must be admitted that English statesmen and the 
British public have at times shown a woeful lack of 
proper appreciation of the part which Persia is 
destined to play in ''Middle Eastern" developments. 
Periods of feverish concern in the affairs of the 
dominions of the " King of kings " have alternated 
with epochs of equally distracting apathy, so much so 
that one of the ablest of English writers on Eastern 
matters has been led into raising his voice in a scathing 
jeremiad against public callousness. '' If, then," wrote 
Sir Henry Rawlinson in the 'Sixties, *' there was danger 
to British India from the attitude and possible designs 
of Russia twenty-eight years ago, that danger must be 

1 The envoy was Jenkinson, one of the company of merchant adven- 
turers which had been formed in the reign of Edward VI. to discover 
"regions, kingdoms, islands, and places unknown and unvisited by the 
highway of the sea." Their first venture took them to that strange 
sea girding the north-eastern countries of Europe, spoken of by Tacitus 
as " a sluggish mere and motionless — which forms the girdle of the world, 
where you hear the sound of sun-rising ! " and cast them eventually on 
the coast of Eussia. The result was the opening up of commercial inter- 
course between England and Russia and the little-known lands beyond. 
The Shah was Shah Tahmasp, and the year 1562. 



increased a hundredfold at the present day ; yet so far 
from being now betrayed into any paroxysm of alarm, 
. . . her proceedings fail even to excite our curiosity, 
and we seem, as far as the public is concerned, to await 
the threatened contact of the two empires with supreme 
indifference." ^ 

One of the most gratifying symptoms in British policy 
in recent times is perhaps the intimation that her 
statesmen have at length realised the vital importance 
of laying down and carrying out a definite policy in 
matters relating to her Indian neighbours. British 
prestige in Persia was at a low ebb when I first visited 
that country in 1900 and 1901. We had been given 
a great chance, but, with a singular failure to grasp 
its real significance, we allowed it to pass to our rivals. 
A combination of British narrowness and Bussian in- 
sistence, assisted, as I am well aware, by Persian 
duplicity, placed the country financially — and finance 
is the alpha and omega of Persian politics — under the 
thumb of Bussia. Persia required money, and she 
applied to England for a loan. English capitalists 
were shy and held aloof, — they doubtless held vivid 
memories of the shock administered to the London 
market in 1890 in connection with the notorious "state 
lotteries " concession, — and the Government, instead of 
hailing with delight the chance they were actually 
begged to accept, delayed. The policy of investing 
money outside the empire was perhaps in the opinion 
of pedantic professors contrary to the tenets of sound 
economy, and the Foreign Office would accept as surety 
nothing less than control of the customs by British 
officials, a privilege which Persia was in no position to 
concede. And so, baffled in her endeavour to raise 
money in England, she turned to the only alternative 

1 England and Kussia in the East. 



source, and the Russian loan of £2,500,000 of 1900, 
the harbinger of more to follow, became an accom- 
plished fact. Nor was this all. Persian Cossacks 
under Russian officers formed the nucleus, and indeed 
the only serviceable asset, of the Persian army ; 
Russian doctors accompanied by Russian Cossacks were 
parading ostentatiously through Eastern Persia — dan- 
ger of plague from India was the excuse ; Russian 
bounties were pushing Russian trade from one end of 
the country to the other ; and the Russian Banque 
des Prets, since rechristened the Banque d'Escompte, 
an agency of the Russian Minister of Finance, with a 
strong and significant resemblance to the Russo-Chinese 
Bank in another sphere, was entering upon that policy 
of cut-throat competition with the Imperial Bank of 
Persia — the one British institution of importance sur- 
viving in the country — which is being pursued with 
relentless persistency to the present day. Moreover, 
the so-called secret convention of 1890, which gave to 
Russia the control of railway construction for a period 
of ten years, had been further renewed, so as to hold 
good until 1905 or, as the Persians themselves aver, 
until 1910. British prestige was indeed at a discount. 

There are signs, however, that the tide has turned. 
The game that is being played is an uphill one, it is 
true. Many of the factors above enumerated, which 
have undermined British influence, are still there, and 
others, such as the commercial treaty of 1902, of which 
I have already written in an earlier chapter, have been 
added ; but some things have been said — definitely and 
officially — and, what is still more important, some few 
things have been done, which have not been without 
their effect both upon the Persians themselves and upon 
their neighbours on the north, and it was impossible 
when travelling in the country in 1903 to be insensible 



to certain indications of a recrudescence of British 

I have outhned briefly — how briefly I am only too 
well aware — the difficulties we have to face, and the 
disadvantages from which we suffer. It remains for 
me, in bringing to a conclusion this short survey of the 
situation in Persia, to make rapid mention of what has 
been said and what has been done to counteract and 
to overcome them. 

In the first place, the British Government have 
taken their courage in their hands, and, mirahile dictu, 
have declared a policy. In 1902 the Under-Secretary 
of State for Foreign Affairs laid it down that it would 
be impossible for us, whatever the cause, to abandon 
what we look upon as our rightful position in Persia. 
" Especially is that true in regard to the Persian Gulf 
It is true not only of the Persian Gulf but of the 
southern provinces of Persia and those provinces which 
border on our Indian Empire. Our rights there and 
our position of ascendancy we cannot abandon." It is 
satisfactory to observe that it is here realised that 
British interests do not reach their limit with the high- 
water mark of the wild sea-waves, and that for securing 
the natural rights of India " purely naval control is a 
very imperfect instrument, unless supported and re- 
inforced by the shores on which it acts." ^ And this 
declaration was repeated and emphasised by Lord 
Lansdowne in May 1903, when speaking upon the 
question in the House of Lords : "I say it without 
hesitation, we should regard the establishment of a 
naval base or of a fortified port in the Persian Gulf by 
any other Power as a very grave menace to British 
interests, and we should certainly resist it with all the 
means at our disposal." 

^ The Persian Gulf and International Kelations. Captain A. T. Mahan. 



That, at any rate, is satisfactory. We have a definite 
declaration of policy, and all the world now knows the 
attitude of his Majesty's Government towards any 
Power endeavouring to encroach upon declared British 
interests, so long at least as the Government that made 
it remains in power — a contingency which, unfortunately, 
has to be postulated in any declaration of British policy. 
But words unsupported by deeds are of little value, and 
it is in the outward and visible signs of the intention 
and purpose lying behind mere oratorical declamation 
that men judge the worth and probable results of any 
policy. Here, too, recent years have been fruitful of 
much that is satisfactory. The declaration of Lord 
Lansdowne concerning the Persian Gulf found concrete 
embodiment in the royal progress of an Indian Viceroy 
through its waters — an expression of actual power so 
pregnant of meaning to the oriental understanding. 
No cryptic utterances were those that fell from the lips 
of Lord Curzon as he defined the position of Great 
Britain for the benefit of the littoral chiefs : " We were 
here before any other Power in modern times had shown 
its face in these waters ; we found strife, and we have 
created order ; it was our commerce as well as your 
security that was threatened and called for protection 
at every port along the coasts ; the subjects of the King 
of England still reside and trade with you ; the great 
Empire of India, which it is our duty to defend, lies 
almost at your gates ; we saved you from extinction 
at the hands of your neighbours ; we opened these 
seas to the ships of all nations, and enabled their flags 
to fly in peace ; we have not seized or held your terri- 
tory ; we have not destroyed your independence, but 
preserved it." ^ 

Such were the dictions of the highest representative 

1 Lford Curzon at Shargah. 



of British sovereignty in Asia to the dwellers on the 
Persian and Arab littoral, supported by the guns and 
turrets of British men-of-war. And the people, poten- 
tate and pirate, peasant and pauper, saw, and, seeing, 
they believed. Should any doubt be cast upon the 
motive actuating the Viceroy's journey to the Persian 
Gulf, the Indian Budget speech of March 1904 is on 
record to dispel it : " This is the secret of the whole 
position in Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, . . . and 
the whole of our policy during the past five years has 
been directed towards maintaining our predominant 
influence and to preventing the expansion of hostile 
agencies on this area which I have described. It was 
for this reason that I visited that old field of British 
energy and influence in the Persian Gulf^ 

There was all the external pomp and circumstance 
so necessary in impressing any particular lesson on the 
tablets of an oriental brain, both in the Viceroy's tour 
to the Persian Gulf and in the Garter mission to the 
capital, — the former illustrative of the predominance of 
Great Britain on the seas, the latter of the friendship 
existing between the Governments of London and 
Teheran. But there have been other incidents which, 
though' lacking the halo of public acclamation, — the 
fanfare of trumpets and black-letter headlines being 
absent, — are indicative of the intention of this country 
to prepare for eventualities. 

In the gulf itself the suborned Turkish attacks upon 
the independence of Koweit, by far the finest harbour 
in those regions, were successfully defeated by the 
prompt appearance upon the scene of British war-ships, 
and the occupants of the two armed dhows which 
swooped down upon the territory of the Sheik in the 
dead of a September night (1902) were dispersed — 
though not without the loss of a British bluejacket — by 




the timely arrival and vigorous action of the commander 
of H. M.S. Lapwing. 

In the hinterland British activity has likewise been 
displayed. We have a right by agreement with the 
Persian Government, whenever railway construction 
takes place in Persia, to construct, or procure the con- 
struction of, railways in the southern part of that 
country, and such agreement, ^'though it may not be 
recorded in any very formal manner," is looked upon 
by the British Government as " a binding engagement 
on the part of the Persian Government." ^ With regard 
to roads, a British company, with the title of " the 
Persian Road Company," has lately been formed to 
take over the concession held by the Imperial Bank for 
building roads from Kum to the Karun, and from the 
same place to Ispahan ; and as a concrete example of 
British enterprise, the " Lynch road," between Ahwaz 
on the Karun and Ispahan, the offspring of an agree- 
ment arrived at in 1898, under the auspices of the 
British Legation, has recently come into being. Another 
feature in connection with ways and communications is 
the convention providing for the construction, by the 
staff of the Indo-European Telegraph Department under 
the Government of India, of a British line from Kashan 
to the frontier of Baluchistan. 

In the field of commerce a vast concession for exploit- 
ing the oil-fields of the whole of the south of Persia 
has been secured by a British company, a vice-consulate 
has been established at Kermanshah, — which, indeed, 
should have been done long ago, seeing that it com- 
mands one of the chief avenues of British trade, — and 
in the course of the last four years consular officials 
have been appointed, or have received increased rank 
and pay at Bandar Abbas, Sistan, Bahrein, Shiraz, 

^ Speech by Lord Lansdowne in the House of Lords, May 5, 1903. 



Tabriz, and Ispahan. Last, but not least, a trade-route 
has been opened up from India across the dividing gulf 
of Baluchistan, though this, it must be admitted, has 
political and strategic aspects in excess of its commercial 
possibilities, and is worthy, therefore, of a few remarks. 

I have given a detailed description of the Nushki- 
Sistan route, which I travelled over in November 1900, 
in another volume.^ Its possibilities as an avenue of 
trade appeared at one time to be considerable, and, 
despite the recent Persian tariff, are still no doubt 
not to be despised. But it cannot be denied that, 
apart from its political and strategic importance, the 
Nushki caravan - route never was and never will be 
a particularly inspiring undertaking. This opinion is 
corroborated by Mr H. W. Maclean, the commissioner 
appointed by the Commercial Intelligence Committee 
of the Board of Trade to visit Persia and inquire into 
the openings for British trade in that country. The 
opinion generally expressed to me by Meshed traders 
who have tried both routes was," writes Mr Maclean, 
*Hhat the additional expenses incurred via Nushki 
made the total charges by that route quite as heavy 
as on the Bandar Abbas route." And again, while 
admitting that some of the disadvantages unavoid- 
able in the case of a new route may disappear, he 
opines that their removal " will still leave this route at 
a disadvantage with the older routes via Bandar Abbas 
and Bushire. These considerations lead me to the 
conclusion that the Sistan route is not of any com- 
mercial utility to direct British trade, and in existing 
circumstances is at the best only an alternative route 
for Indian commerce." Hardly an inspiring horoscope 
for a commercial undertaking ! 

The fact is, as I have frequently urged, that while 

^ Sport and Politics under an Eastern Sky. 



commercial and political interests in Persia are prac- 
tically indissociable, the political element in the Nushki 
route is the preponderating one. That this is the 
view taken by the Indian Government is demonstrated 
incidentally by the fact that, contrary to the essen- 
tially technical advice of telegraphist experts who 
inclined to the alignment Quetta-Ladis in preference 
to that of Quetta-Robat for the new line of telegraph, 
the latter was the one eventually selected, in spite of 
its greater distance and greater estimated cost both 
in capital sunk and in future annual expenditure.^ 
This line was completed from Quetta to Robat on 
the Persian frontier, and an office opened there early 
in the present year. 

The Russian press were likewise not slow to see the 
political importance of the enterprise ; and the announce- 
ment that the Secretary of State for India had given 
his sanction to the construction of a line from Quetta 
to Nushki in the autumn of 1902 was greeted with 
a chorus of hysterical denunciation from the Russian 
organs.^ The Government was urged to take steps 

1 The distance from Quetta to Ladis was given as 430 miles, and from 
Quetta to Kobat as 478 miles ; while the estimated capital cost of line and 
offices for the former was Rs. 9,79,000, and for the latter Rs. 11,30,500 ; and 
the estimated annual maintenance charges for the former Rs. 34,000, and 
for the latter Rs. 35,500. 

2 The construction of the Quetta- Nushki railway of 82^ miles in length 
was sanctioned in August 1902 at an estimated cost of about Rs. 70,00,000, 
or Rs. 85,000 per mile. Leaving the existing Bolan railway at a point 12 
miles from Quetta and 3 miles from Spezand, the line will encounter three 
mountain barriers — the Chiltan, the Mashelak, and the southern tail of the 
Khwaja Amram, — crossing the intervening plains of Mastung and Shahrud. 
The steepest grades are 1 in 50, compensated for curvature, and the sharpest 
curve will have a 573-foot radius. Sanction was received from the Secretary 
of State for at once putting in hand the Nishpa tunnel, 2600 feet long, 5 
miles from the point of departure, and the heavy works in the Sheik 
Wasil Gorge, between miles 27 and 32, at an expenditure of Rs. 4,75,000. 
The Nishpa tunnel is now finished, and the laying of the line is being taken 
in hand. 



"to paralyse our rivals," and the *Novoe Vremya' 
did not hesitate to describe the Quetta - Nushki 
railway as the beginning of a line which would 
eventually place the British on the flank of what it 
describes as " the probable path of Russian advance 
on India." Candour with a vengeance, recalling a 
comment of Lord Curzon a decade ago : *' When 
the cat is to be let out of the bag, commend me to 
a Russian newspaper for the uncompromising manner 
in which it is performed." Once more has the ' Novoe 
Vremya ' been stirred to remonstrance — this time, 
seemingly, by the Anglo-Persian Boundary Commission, 
which still bides amid the physical and climatic de- 
lights of Sistan. This time — September 1903 — a 
bitter refrain runs through the plaint : " And yet if 
Russia allows Great Britain to strengthen its in- 
fluence in Sistan and South -East Persia, then we are 
preparing for ourselves a dismal solution of the Central 
Asian Question." 

All this is of course a little premature. All that 
has so far been taken in hand is a short line 82|- 
miles in length from the Quetta plateau to Nushki, 
which place is itself more than 300 miles from the 
Persian frontier. At the same time it cannot be too 
strongly urged that such a line should be continued 
across Baluchistan. The trade-route as it is can, as 
I have been at some pains to point out, only be re- 
garded as a questionable success. The construction of 
a railway would not only develop and fortify our com- 
mercial interests and political prestige in South and 
East Persia, but it would place us in a position to 
take that part in the future railway development of 
Persia which will some day inevitably devolve upon 
us. If I might venture to suggest a strategical 
advantage attaching to such a consum.mation, it is 



that we should be securely placed on the flank of any 
attack directed against Kandahar from the North. 

Space forbids that I should enlarge further upon 
the question of Persia. There is, however, one more 
suggestion to be made, though I have no very great 
confidence in its being entertained, and that is, that 
the British Government should become the share- 
holders of the Imperial Bank of Persia. The bank 
is the one influential British institution still extant 
in Persia, the one weapon which it is still in her 
power, if she will, to wield with some eflect ; and 
Russia, well aware that this is so, is doing all she can 
through the Banque d'Escompte to cut the ground 
from under it. There was a provision in the 
negotiations connected with the Russian loan by 
which Persia was deprived of the power of borrowing 
from any other nation until Russia had been paid ofll 
But this could not possibly be held to prevent her 
from borrowing from her own bank. Indeed there 
is every reason to believe that the Persian treasury, 
the contents of whose coflers are scattered abroad with 
such reckless levity, has been to some extent thus 
replenished since the Russian loan ; and I need hardly 
point out the possibilities that would follow upon such 
an arrangement as I have suggested, of rectifying, as 
far as rectification is now possible, the financial blun- 
der of 1900. 

I have painted a brighter picture of the Persian 
problem than is usually done, and I have laid 
stress upon those points — the things that Great 
Britain is doing — which are usually ignored. I do 
not for a moment wish it to be inferred that I am 
unaware of the gloomy side. If Great Britain is 
up and doing, Russia is doing too. No one who 
travels in the country can fail to be aware of that. 



But I do not, I admit, take the ultra pessimistic 
view that too often colours the works of writers 
upon the question, and I do not by any means find 
it impossible to fall in with the belief expressed 
by his Majesty's Minister for Foreign Affairs when 
he said, " If there have been changes of late, those 
changes have been, on the whole, in the direction 
of the assertion and the protection of British interests," 
and I welcome the expression of hope which he at 
the same time vouchsafed, that as time goes on we 
may be able to make further progress in the same 





A mystery -enshrouded land — Europeans who have seen Lhassa — The 
Sikkim Convention of 1893 — Waddell's definition of Lamaism — Sarat 
Chandra Das — Decision of the India Ofl&ce — Failure of the negotiations 
for sending an official mission to Tibet — Tibetan aggression — Fatuous 
policy of the British Government — The Calcutta Convention of 1890 — 
Tibetan disregard of the Convention of 1890 — The sham of Chinese 
suzerainty — The views of the Government of India in 1899 — The 
Viceroy's letter to the Dalai Lama returned unopened — The appear- 
ance of Russia — A supposed Busso-Chinese convention — Negotiations 
at Khamba Jong — An advance to Gyangtse sanctioned — Tibetan belief 
in the support of Russia — Gyangtse occupied — The advance to Lhassa 
begun — The policy of the Government of India — A possible solution of 
the Tibetan puzzle — The case of Bokhara an analogy — The Tibetan 
dispute must be settled without reference to other Powers. 

From earliest times an impenetrable curtain of mystery 
has enshrouded the remote highlands of Tibet. Nature 
herself has reared her icy barriers round this strange 
enchanted land, and her people have taken advantage 
to the full of her natural impenetrability. And so 
strange stories have been woven round the people 
behind the veil, their customs and their lives, and 
the mysterious religion which they practise. A few 
intrepid travellers, it is true, have at odd times pierced 
through the curtain of obscurity which envelops the 
sacred haunt of Buddhistic lore. In 1811, Manning, 
the single Englishman able to boast of the achieve- 
ment, penetrated to the heart of the country and set 



foot in the holy city of Lhassa, and in 1845 the Lazarist 
fathers Gabet and Hue were likewise successful in 
effecting a lodgment in the capital ; but after the 
forcible expulsion of the latter the veil was allowed 
to fall once more, and for sixty years no single rep- 
resentative of the West has succeeded in disturbing 
the unruffled calm — as far, that is, as external in- 
fluences are concerned — which has for the whole of 
that period brooded over the hierarchy at Lhassa.^ 
There were those who saw in the Sikkim Convention 
of 1893 the golden key that was to unlock for them 
the gates of the forbidden land ; but such sanguine 
expectation was based on a defective knowledge of 
the people, and it has been left for the twentieth 
century to supply the weapon with which to cut the 
Gordian knot of Tibetan exclusiveness. 

Truth to tell, he would have to be of a peculiar 
disposition who could see in the barren stony wastes 
that constitute so large a portion of Tibet the land 
of any one's desire ; nor indeed can it be said that in 
the religion of that country is to be found any founda- 
tion for the weird tales of the supernatural to which 
it has given rise. Lamaism provides something of 
interest, it is true ; but it provides much that is 
sordid as well, as is inevitable in any form of demon- 
ology.^ And perhaps the best that can be said of it 
has already been said by the author of the ' Buddhism 

1 Though no European succeeded in reaching Lhassa during this period, 
it was visited on more than one occasion by native surveyors in the service 
of the Indian Government. Nain Sing, an intrepid explorer who has added 
much to our knowledge of the country, was there in January 1866 and 
again in November 1874, and a semi-Tibetan in the same service led a 
small party there in March 1872. The babu Sarat Chandra Das was also 
successful in reaching the capital. 

2 For some account of a personal visit to one of the weird performances, 
half-serious, half-comic, that are enacted in Tibet, see ' Sport and Politics 
under an Eastern Sky,' pp. 109-112. 



of Tibet,' ^ when he wrote that " Lamaism is, indeed, 
a microcosm of the growth of religion and myth among 
primitive people, and in large degree an object-lesson 
of their advance from barbarism towards civilisation. 
And it preserves for us much of the old-world lore 
and petrified beliefs of our Aryan ancestors." 

It is not, however, the religion or customs of Tibet 
that occupy me now : it is the political situation to 
which the proceedings of its rulers have given rise that 
I am engaged in portraying here. 

It is worthy of remark that prior to 1885 the Bengali 
babu, Sarat Chandra Das, had on two occasions paid 
successful visits to the authorities at Lhassa, and with 
care and tact it is only natural to suppose that the thin 
end of the wedge thus entered might have been success- 
fully driven home. Of his own expeditions the babu 
has himself left record in an interesting volume, which 
has had the advantage in its revision of the valuable 
services of so competent an authority as Mr W. W. 
Rockhill. The object aimed at was at that time of 
course trade, and, as I have said, commercial relations 
might no doubt have followed upon the peaceful 
missions of Chandra Das, who had become a persona 
grata with certain lamas of high position, from whom 
he had received a cordial invitation to return to their 
country. But other counsels prevailed, and the India 
Office, contrary, it is said, to the expressed wishes of 
the Government of India, became impregnated with a 
desire to despatch an official mission to Lhassa. 

The whole of the subsequent proceedings can only 
be described as resulting in a dismal and humiliating 
fiasco, and there can be little doubt that it is in the 
first instance ourselves that we have to thank for the 
present imbroglio in Tibet. 

1 L. Austine Waddell, M.B. 



Amid a preliminary flourish of trumpets the British 
envoy proceeded to Peking with the ostensible object of 
applying for a passport, a proceeding which immediately 
aroused the easily awakened suspicions of China. Why 
this unnecessary journey to the capital was embarked 
upon it is difficult to imagine. According to the Chifu 
Convention of September 1876, the British envoy was 
entitled to a passport, and no personal application was 
in the remotest degree necessary.^ However that may 
be, one thing is in no way open to doubt, that from 
this moment the expectations of the mission were 
doomed. The passport was of course granted, — it 
could not very well be refused, — but the intricate 
wheels of the Chinese diplomatic machine were 
promptly set in motion to render abortive the per- 
mission thereby ostensibly granted. The Inspector- 
General of Customs — the hero of a hundred diplomatic 
coups ^ — was once more called in aid, and to such 
purpose that the India Office were constrained to 

1 The article of the Chifu Convention of 1876 dealing with the question 
of a contemplated British mission of exploration reads as follows : "If the 
mission . . . should be proceeding across the Indian frontier to Tibet, the 
Tsung-li Yamen, on receipt of a communication to the above effect from 
the British Minister, will write to the Chinese Eesident in Tibet, and the 
Resident, with due regard to the circumstances, will send officers to take 
due care of the mission ; and passports for the mission will be issued by 
the Tsung-li Yamen, that its passage be not obstructed." 

2 It would be difficult to say how much the Chinese owe to Sir Robert 
Hart for the facility he has shown in extricating them from the un- 
fortunate complications into which they are always falling with Western 
Powers. In the same year in which he was induced to rid them of the 
inconvenient mission to Tibet he was engaged in patching up a peace 
between China and France. The announcement of the successful conclu- 
sion of these negotiations is characteristically described by Professor 
Douglas. " Nine months ago," said Sir Robert Hart, addressing the mem- 
bers of the Tsung-li Yamen, "you authorised me to open negotiations for 

peace, and now " " the baby is born," said the Ministers, before he could 

proceed further. " Yes," said Sir Robert Hart, " the preliminaries of peace 
are arranged." 



revoke their decision, thereby hammering the first 
nail into the Tibetan coffin of British prestige. 

For a while the question of Tibet was allowed to 
slumber, but the next move was of a very different 
nature, consisting of an absolutely uncalled-for act of 
aggression against British Sikkim on the part of the 
people of Tibet. The first-fruits of the fatuous action 
of 1885 had been born. 

Once more did we, by our failure to seize the oppor- 
tunity thus offered of settling once for all the question 
of Tibet, lay up for ourselves trouble for the future. 
India had been invaded, but rather than take prompt 
action by sending a small force to Lhassa — a proceeding 
which would have had the desired effect of dispelling 
the unfortunate illusion, which had become engrafted 
on the Tibetan mind as a result of our previous in- 
competency, that Great Britain could be treated with 
contempt, — we preferred to fall back upon that pro- 
digious expedient for passing time — Chinese diplomacy. 
The home Government, in fact — as distinguished from 
Indian statesmen on the spot — continued to be ruled, 
as Mr Michie remarks, by influences which were 
neither military, nor political, nor practical." ^ 

The net result of an incalculable waste of foolscap 
indulged in by the two countries during the next few 
years was the Calcutta Convention of 1890, supple- 
mented by the Sikkim trade convention of 1893. By 
the Convention of 1890 the boundary of Sikkim and 
Tibet was decided, the British protectorate over Sikkim 
was recognised, and British and Chinese joint com- 
missioners were appointed to draw up arrangements 
for providing increased facilities for trade, to decide 
the question of pasturage on the Sikkim side of the 
frontier, and to determine the method in which official 

^ The Englishman in China. 


communications between the British authorities in 
India and the authorities in Tibet should be con- 
ducted. Three weary years dragged their tedious 
length along before these points of discussion found 
solution ; but at length an agreement was patched up 
and signed in December 1893, an arrangement which 
it is well to observe might just as well have never 
been concluded, since by no stretch of imagination 
can it be said that it has ever been observed. Under 
the terms of the convention a trade mart was estab- 
lished at a place which never has been, and from the 
nature of its site never could be, a real market — 
namely, Yatung — and free trade, except in the case 
of certain prohibited articles, was sanctioned for a 
period of five years. 

Both the Convention of 1890 and the subsequent 
trade regulations of 1893 have been contemptuously 
disregarded by the Tibetans, who have persistently 
ignored the boundary therein agreed upon, removed 
the landmarks set up, and contravened the regulations 
with regard to trade. In face of the article stipulating 
for free trade for a period of five years, the jongpen 
of Phari was found to be gaily levying a 10 per cent 
ad valorem duty on all goods that passed through his 
district, and preventing Tibetan merchants from pass- 
ing beyond that place with their goods, a proceeding 
on his part which, as the Government of Bengal very 
sensibly remarked, undoubtedly seemed " to be incon- 
sistent with the terms of the treaty." The utter 
worthlessness of Yatung as a market was set forth by 
the commissioner of the Bajshahi division in a letter 
to the Government of Bengal, dated June 30, 1896 : 
"It is a mistake to connect it [the increase of trade] 
with the provision made in the regulations of 1893 for 
the opening of a trade mart at Yatung, as no mart has, 



in fact, been established. Some merchants visited that 
place from India during the year for the purpose of 
trade, but they had to return without doing any busi- 
ness, as the Tibetans were prohibited by their officials 
from meeting them." 

So the arrangements of 1890 and 1893 were studi- 
ously ignored, as indeed was only to be expected, 
since the people who ignored them were in no way 
responsible for them, and had never been anything 
but opposed to them. China, in other words, had 
stood sponsor for Tibet, and China, however loud her 
protestations, was in no position to do so, a fact 
which had not dawned upon the understanding of the 
negotiators of 1890 and 1893. It came home later, 
it is true, which is why we are now dealing with 

In 1899 the Government of India summed up the 
situation as it had been summed up many times be- 
fore : " No real progress has as yet been made towards 
the settlement of the frontier, while the stipulations 
as to trade have been practically inoperative." But 
there was a healthy sign visible in the same despatch, 
for the sham of Chinese suzerainty was at length 
officially laid bare : " We do not desire to conceal 
from your lordship our opinion that negotiations with 
the Chinese Resident — although they now have the 
sanction of long usage, and although the attempts 
that have so far been made to open direct communi- 
cation with the Tibetan authorities have resulted in 
failure — are not likely to be productive of any serious 
result." The whole question rested on an unsatisfac- 
tory basis. Applications to Tibet were referred to 
the Chinese Resident, while applications to the latter 
were put off on the plea of his inability to put any 
pressure on Tibet, and there can be few who will not 



agree with the Government of India that as a policy 
this appeared to be " both unproductive and in- 
glorious." ^ What was an urgent necessity was that 
both China and Tibet should plainly understand that 
as the suzerain Power was unable to see that treaties 
were observed, we should be obliged to enforce their 
observance for ourselves, and that as the Chinese 
were unable to exercise the requisite authority over 
their dependency, it was necessary for Great Britain 
to deal direct with such dependency itself This 
principle was recognised by the Government of India 
and approved by Lord Salisbury at the end of 1899. 

So far the question was confined to Great Britain, 
China, and Tibet. Lamaist obstruction had been 
allowed a liberal lease of life, but it could not be 
expected that so unsatisfactory a state of affairs should 
be allowed to continue for ever. A crowning insult 
was added when the Dalai-Lama returned unopened 
a letter from the Viceroy of India, and there is no 
doubt that the Government of India fully realised that 
the time had come when stronger measures must be 
resorted to. 

At this juncture a new figure flashed comet-like on 
to the Tibetan stage, and developments arose which 
had for immediate effect the raising of the hitherto 
little - considered state to a position of international 

1 This state of affairs was admirably explained in the despatch already 
quoted : " We regard the so-called suzerainty of China over Tibet as a 
constitutional fiction — a political affectation which has only been maintained 
because of its convenience to both parties. China is always ready to break 
down the barriers of ignorance and obstruction, and to open Tibet to the 
civilising influence of trade ; but her pious wishes are defeated by the 
short-sighted stupidity of the lamas. In the same way Tibet is only too 
anxious to meet our advances, but she is prevented from doing so by the 
despotic veto of the suzerain. This solemn farce has been re-enacted with a 
frequency that seems never to deprive it of its attractions or its power to 



prominence. Russia had arrived, and when the curtain 
rang up on the Tibetan drama of 1900 it was to dis- 
play Russia figuring only too prominently upon the 
boards. From this time on it became not merely a 
question of settling trade disputes with an obstructive 
and ignorant people, but of preventing hostile agencies 
from taking root beneath the walls of our Indian 

Russia's first card was the reception by Russia's Tsar 
of a mission from Tibet, and Russia's second card was 
of a like nature. The first mission, consisting of a 
Russian buriat, Aharamba-Agvan-Dorgieff, who had 
ingratiated himself with the authorities at Lhassa, and 
secured the title of first Tsanit Hamba to the Dalai- 
Lama of Tibet, was received by the Tsar in October 
1900. The second mission, granted an imperial audi- 
ence in July 1901, was a much more imposing affair, 
consisting of a number of Tibetan officials, described 
as envoys extraordinary of the Dalai-Lama of Tibet. 
It may be said that under ordinary circumstances there 
was nothing particularly disquieting in such an event. 
That may well be ; but the circumstances were by no 
means ordinary. Tibet does not abut upon any Russian 
territory, Lhassa is upwards of 1000 miles from any 
Russian possession, while it is, on the other hand, 
but a short distance from the Indian frontier, and, 
as coterminous states, we have necessarily special in- 
terests in the country ; and yet, while the Grand 
Pontiff of Lhassa returns unopened an autograph letter 

1 See the Viceroy's speech on the Budget, already frequently referred to : 
" This [the prevention of the expansion of hostile agencies on the Indian 
border-lands] also is in part the explanation of our movement into Tibet ; 
although the attitude of the Tibetan Government, its persistent disregard 
of treaty obligations, and its contemptuous retort to our extreme patience, 
would in any case have compelled a more active vindication of our 


from an Indian Viceroy, he sends autograph letters 
by the hands of special envoys to the statesmen on 
the Neva. 

The case was obviously one for inquiry, and when 
a year later reports became current of a secret Russo- 
Chinese agreement relating to Tibet, involving a vir- 
tual Russian protectorate over the country, a definite 
denial from the former Power became imperative. In 
the first instance. Count Lamsdorff declared that the 
mission " could not be regarded as having any political 
or diplomatic character." He had, he admitted, re- 
ceived an autograph letter from the Dalai-Lama, which, 
however, contained nothing of very grave import. It 
was, in fact, found on translation to merely express a 
hope that he — Count LamsdorfF — was in enjoyment of 
good health and prosperous, and to inform him that 
the Dalai-Lama was happy to be able to say that 
he himself enjoyed excellent health ! The reports of 
any agreement about Tibet were categorically denied 
by both the Chinese and Russian Governments, and 
the origin of such reports — ' The China Times ' 
actually gave the text of the agreement in twelve 
articles ! ^ — remained a mystery. 

1 The articles of the alleged Eusso-Chinese agreement relating to Tibet, 
as published by 'The China Times' in July 1902, even if, like the will of 
Peter the Great, apocryphal, afford interesting reading. The most import- 
ant items are as follows : — 

I. " The Chinese Government, conscious that China's power is weakening, 
agrees to relinquish her entire interest in Tibet, with all privileges and 
benefits, to Russia, in exchange for Russian support and assistance in main- 
taining the Chinese Empire." 

II. " In the event of any trouble occurring in the interior of China which 
the Chinese Government finds itself unable to cope with, Russia undertakes 
to suppress it." 

IV. " Russia will hereafter establish Government officers in Tibet, and 
control Tibetan affairs." 

VIII. "Chinese merchandise imported into Tibet shall be either duty 
free or very lightly taxed." 




Nevertheless, in spite of Kussian denials of any deal- 
ings with Tibet, she left no room for doubt as to the 
interest she took in that country, and in February 1903 
she took occasion to take Great Britain brusquely to 
task on account of a supposed military expedition which 
she was informed had been despatched across the 
Indian frontier. " In view of the very great import- 
ance which the Imperial Russian Government attaches 
to the avoidance of any cause of trouble in China, it 
would consider such an expedition into Tibet as cal- 
culated to produce a situation of considerable gravity, 
which might eventually force the Russian Government 
to take measures for the protection of its interests in 
those regions." And this was the Government which 
had not hesitated to despoil China of the vast territory 
of Manchuria ! 

The authoritative information" of the supposed ex- 
pedition was without the slightest foundation, and it is 
not surprising to find Lord Lansdowne characterising 
the language of the Russian Embassy as " unusual and 
almost minatory in tone." It is refreshing to find the 
Foreign Office taking a firm stand, and to hear it 
declaring that, in view of our special interests in Tibet, 
it followed that should there be any display of Russian 
activity in that country, we should be obliged to reply 
by a display of activity not only equivalent to but 
exceeding that made by Russia. 

Nevertheless, in spite of such declarations, Russian 
officiousness made itself felt, as may be seen from the 
despatches from the India Ofiice, dated February 27 
and May 28 respectively. In the former it is admitted 

XI. "All mining and railway interests will be in Kussian hands, but_,. 
Chinese will be allowed to participate." 

XII. " Eussia undertakes in the construction of railway lines or forts not 
to destroy or interfere with temples or other sacred spots." 



that the question at issue is no longer one of details as 
to trade and boundaries, " but the whole question of the 
future political relations of India with Tibet." Russian 
influence is seen towards the end of the despatch. 
The proposals of the Indian Government to send an 
armed mission to Tibet and to establish a Resident at 
Lhassa might, it is admitted, be justified as a legitimate 
reply to the action of the Tibetan Government were the 
issue simply one between India and Tibet, and the 
despatch concludes with the statement that, after 
hearing from the Russian Government, his Majesty's 
Government " will be in a better position to decide on 
the scope to be given to the negotiations with China, 
and' on the steps to be taken to protect India against 
any danger from the establishment of foreign influence 
in Tibet." By the end of May, when the second 
despatch alluded to was sent, the " Russian terror " had 
sunk deeper into the oflicial mind, and the old timidity 
and pliability before Russian bluster is again apparent. 
Whereas it was recognised in the former despatch that 
the issue at stake was " the whole question of the 
future political relations of India with Tibet," it is now 
laid down as the wish of the Government that " the 
negotiations should be restricted to questions concern- 
ing trade relations, the frontier, and grazing rights," 
and a desire is expressed that no proposal should be 
made for the establishment of a political agent either 
at Gyangtse or Lhassa. 

The result was that negotiations were again resorted 
to, though on this occasion Khamba Jong, the place 
selected by the Government of India, was sanctioned as 
the point of meeting of the British and the Chinese 
and Tibetan envoys, and the essential principle was 
recognised of Tibet being represented in the negotiations 
by a duly accredited Tibetan representative. Needless 



to say, the same old story was repeated, innumerable 
excuses for delay were hatched in the fertile Chinese 
brain, and the Tibetans, less versed in the art of polite 
diplomacy than their more accomplished co-commis- 
sioners, uncompromisingly refused to negotiate at all. 
Moreover, they proceeded to emphasise their contempt 
for diplomatic subterfuge by deciding upon war in the 
National Council at Lhassa, by collecting soldiers with 
every display of hostility, and by casting two unoffend- 
ing British subjects incontinently into prison. 

By October 1903 it seems to have at last dawned 
upon Downing Street that the Government of India 
did, after all, perhaps know something about Indian 
affairs and India's neighbours, and in November his 
Majesty's Government reluctantly sanctioned the ad- 
vance of the mission to Gyangtse, though they at the 
same time repeated that they were not prepared to 
sanction any form of permanent intervention in Tibetan 

So accustomed had those concerned become to find 
invariable success crown their policy of trifling with 
Great Britain, that the news of the above decision came 
upon the Chinese Foreign Office as an absolute bolt 
from the blue. The Wai-wu Pu, electrified to action, 
fell to telegraphing wildly to the new Amban, who 
had been appointed to proceed to Lhassa and to take 
charge of the Tibetan question generally, and who was 
wandering unconcernedly among the deserts and oases 
of the interior, to hasten by forced marches to his post, 
and exact obedience from the Government of Tibet to 
the imperial commands forthwith to resume negotia- 
tions with the British commissioners. The communica- 
tion made to the Chinese Minister did indeed seem, as 
his Majesty's Minister at Peking somewhat dryly re- 
marked, " to have awakened the Chinese Government 



out of their apathy." Russia, of course, took violent 
and unreasoning exception to the action of the British 
Government, so much so that Lord Lansdowne felt con- 
strained to remark to the Russian Ambassador that it 
seemed to him " beyond measure strange that these 
protests should be made by the Government of a 
Power which had, all over the world, never hesitated 
to encroach upon its neighbours when the circumstances 
seemed to require it," and to ask " if the Russian 
Government had a right to complain of us for taking 
steps in order to obtain reparation from the Tibetans 
by advancing into Tibetan territory, what kind of 
language should we not be entitled to use in regard 
to Russian encroachments in Manchuria, Turkestan, 
and Persia ? " The one people who regarded the 
whole advance with unconcealed derision and con- 
tempt were the one people whom it really concerned 
— the Tibetans. 

Past experience was no doubt largely responsible for 
the arrogant demeanour of Tibet, but there was another 
reason too, and that was their reliance upon another 
Power. Whatever the attitude of Russian diplomatists 
at St Petersburg and London, there is no room for 
doubt that the Russian agent Dorjieff at Lhassa had 
given, and continued to give, promises of Russian aid. 
Colonel Younghusband, in whose experienced hands the 
conduct of the mission had been placed, received infor- 
mation from various independent sources that the 
Tibetans were relying on Russian aid, and that Russian 
arms had been introduced into Tibet. The Chinese 
official. Colonel Chao, himself complained of the 
Tibetans having openly taunted the suzerain Power, 
and proclaimed their reliance upon a stronger and 
greater nation ; and in January of the present year the 
emissaries from Lhassa themselves informed the British 



mission that in the event of an advance and the 
defeat of the Tibetans they would fall back on another 
Power, and that things would then be bad for Great 

With the opening months of the present year (1904) 
it became clear that the Lama hierarchy, headed by 
the Dalai -Lama, had decided to act independently of 
Chinese interference, and were determined to oppose 
vi et armis the farther advance of the mission, the first 
material expression of this determination being the 
armed opposition to the advance at Guru on March 31, 
a short time after a body of lamas of high rank from 
Lhassa had solemnly cursed the mission camp for a 
period of five consecutive days ! 

Early in April the mission proceeded to Gyangtse, 
which was occupied after a sharp encounter, in the 
course of which the Tibetans sustained further heavy 
losses, and here a halt was made until July 6, when 
the great jong, which frowns down upon the low, white, 
two-storeyed houses of the town from its 600 feet of 
massive isolated rock — " a Corfe Castle of ten times 
the size, on a hill ten times as high" — was gallantly 
stormed by General Macdonald's mixed force of Fusiliers, 
Sikhs, Gurkhas, and Pathans. 

The three months' halt at Gyangtse might, no doubt, 
appear to the impartial observer to be a wholly super- 
fluous waste of time, but in coming to such a conclusion 

^ According to the special correspondent of ' The Times,' Dorjieff, on his 
return to Tibet after his first mission to Eussia in 1898, was the bearer of a 
large number of valuable presents to the Dalai-Lama, whose influence he 
was determined to secure in the interests of Russia. "Not the least 
remarkable argument," writes the correspondent, " he brought forward to 
effect a rapprochement between his two masters was the insidious plea that 
if the Dalai-Lama would but consent to visit St Petersburg, he would not 
only secure for Tibet the valuable alliance and protection of Russia, but 
might even convert to Buddhism the Tsar's wavering faith in Christianity ! " 
— ' Times,' May 24, 1904. 



he would be guilty of ignoring the extraordinary ap- 
preciation on the part of Great Britain of the " majesty 
of custom " ! At the end of each fresh move it is our 
custom to ignore all that has happened in the interim, 
and to return to our original starting-point ; so having 
reached Gyangtse, we sent a polite invitation to the 
Tibetans to negotiate, as if nothing had ever happened ! 
June 25 was fixed as the date up to which delegates 
would be received as peace-bearers, and to June 25, 
and indeed for some days longer, — for we gave them 
a few extra days' grace, — the mission patiently waited, 
while the Tibetans, whose peaceful envoys it was 
awaiting, directed a continual storm of bullets and 
shell upon it from the commanding position of the 
jong ! And there are those in England itself who 
would accuse us of wantonly provoking hostilities ! 

But custom had been obeyed in another respect ; for, 
according to precedent, the operations were commenced 
with a force that was wholly inadequate to complete 
them, so that while the mission was awaiting the peace 
envoys from Lhassa, it was also awaiting reinforce- 
ments from India ! The reinforcements duly arrived, 
as did also the envoys, though the latter were a few 
days behind their time. This slight lack of punctu- 
ality might have been disregarded had they proved 
competent plenipotentiaries, but once more were the 
representatives of Great Britain befooled ; and since 
little material progress towards a satisfactory settle- 
ment was effected by the religious reflections on the 
situation which formed the gist of the Dalai-Lama^s 
latest despatch, nothing remained but to begin the 
advance to Lhassa. 

This was actually done on July 14, the peaceful 
intentions ot Great Britain, and the desire of the 
Government to give to Tibet a further opportunity 



of coming to a reasonable settlement,^ being made 
known to the people through an official proclamation 
issued by Colonel Younghusband ; and it is more than 
probable that before these pages appear in print a 
British force will have torn aside the anomalous cur- 
tain of mystery that has for so long enveloped the 
sacred city of Lhassa. 

In reviewing the developments in this quarter in 
recent years, it must be admitted that the Indian 
Government did not fail to grasp the full meaning of 
the question, and having done so, were not slow to 
make up their minds as to the procedure which they 
considered necessary. In January 1903 they earnestly 
urged that a British mission should be despatched 
to Lhassa, there to conclude a definite treaty signed 
by both Chinese and Tibetan officials, and they ex- 
pressed the opinion that such action should culminate 
in the appointment of a permanent British repre- 
sentative, consular or diplomatic, to reside at the 

It was no desire for political or territorial aggran- 
disement that prompted such counsels, but rather the 
clearly recognised necessity for protecting our un- 
doubted interests, and for rendering abortive any 
future endeavour — only too clearly foreseen — by any 
other Power to secure vested interests in the vicinity 
of the Indian frontier, which would undoubtedly 
become sooner or later a grave menace to the security 
of our Indian Empire. The vital importance which 
they attached to their views was emphasised by their 

1 " The nature of the terms to be exacted will greatly depend on the 
attitude of the Tibetan Government, to whom further opportunity of a 
reasonable settlement of the matter in dispute will be offered." — Extract 
from the proclamation issued by Colonel Younghusband on July 13, 1904. 



repeated pressure of them upon the British Government 
during the period in which that body was passing 
through an unaccountable phase of vacillation, and it 
is a matter for congratulation that the progress of 
events has rendered the carrying out of their policy, 
in part at least, probable. It is to be hoped that a 
treaty recognised and agreed to by all parties will 
eventually be concluded at the Tibetan capital, and 
that a permanent British representative will ere long 
be acknowledged at Lhassa. For it is, as the Govern- 
ment of India so tersely put it, " the most extraordinary 
anachronism of the twentieth century that there 
should exist within 300 miles of the borders of 
British India a State and a Government with whom 
political relations do not so much as exist, and with 
whom it is impossible to exchange a written com- 

Exactly how a practical solution of the Tibetan 
difficulty is to be brought about with a minimum of 
friction, is of course a question which can best be 
solved by those on the spot. An interesting suggestion 
has, however, recently (May 1904) been put forward by 
a writer in ' The Contemporary Beview.' ^ The course 
therein advocated is the creation of a religious revolu- 
tion by raising aloft the standard of a Buddhist anti- 
pope with the goodwill of Great Britain behind him. 
The whole of the Buddhist world, thinks the writer, 
except of course the Lhassa council of five, would 
accept the sudden political intervention of the Tashe- 
Lama at a moment when the Church was in danger, 
and with an anglophile Buddhist pope raised to supreme 
power by British support, Anglo-Tibetan intercourse 
would be assured, while the star of Great Britain 

^ Alexander Ular. 



would be in the ascendant in the heavens of the whole 
Buddhist world. ^ 

The scheme is one of attraction and is worthy of con- 
sideration, though it is perhaps open to doubt whether 
the present Tashe - Lama would prove favourable to 
foreigners, and if so, whether he could be persuaded to 
assume the temporal authority of the Dalai -Lama at 
Lhassa. Spiritually he is the superior of the high 
priest at the capital, as being the reincarnation of the 
Dhyani Buddha Amitabha, while the latter is only 
the reincarnation of the Bodhisat Avalokita ; but his 
spiritual superiority is also due, no doubt, as suggested 
by Waddell,^ to his being less contaminated with tem- 
poral government and worldly politics. On the other 
hand, the Tashe-Lama appears in the past to have seen 
no objection to interesting himself in mundane affairs. 
Mr Bogle, for instance, the capable envoy of Warren 

1 The so-called double-hierarchy of the Dalai- and Tashe-Lamas originated 
with the Grand Lama Nag-wan Lo-zan, the sixth in descent from the 
great reformer and originator of the system of perpetual reincarnation, 
Geden-dub, who had founded the Tashe-llunpo Monastery in 1445. At his 
instigation a Mongol prince conquered Tibet in 1640 and presented it to him, 
together with the title of Dalai-Lama, thus raising him to the high position 
of priest-king. In this position and title he was confirmed by the Emperor 
of China on the occasion of a visit to Peking in 1650. It seems, however, 
that the regency was usually held by a vice-regent called the Gesub Einpoche, 
who occupied the position of a temporal sovereign. Early in the eighteenth 
century the tyranny and oppression of the administration of the vice-regent, 
Wang Cusho, who was in power at that time, and his intention of becoming 
independent of China, were reported by the Dalai-Lama to Peking. As a 
result of this report Wang Cusho was put to death, and the administration 
placed by the Chinese Emperor in the hands of the Dalai-Lama himself, 
who has retained an increased temporal power ever since. At the time of 
Mr Bogle's mission he found the executive administration in the hands of a 
regent — the then Dalai-Lama being under age — assisted by a council of four 
other ministers styled Jcahlons. This appears to be the position at 
Lhassa at the present time, though for the first time for many years the 
position of regent is occupied by a Dalai-Lama who has been so fortunate 
as to have lived to attain his majority. 

2 In his ' Buddhism of Tibet.' 



Hastings, reports to his chief that — Although Tashe- 
Lama is not intrusted with the actual government of 
the country, yet his authority and influence appear 
fully equal to accomplish the views which you entertain 
in regard to the encouragement of trade. His passports 
to merchants and travellers are obeyed universally 
throughout Tibet." ^ 

However that may be, and whatever be the details 
of any future settlement, R-ussia has no legitimate 
grounds whatsoever for interference. The deference 
which British statesmen have always seemed to find 
it incumbent on them to pay to Russian susceptibilities 
constitutes one of the most egregious traditions of the 
British Foreign Office. When Russia embarked upon a 
policy of wholesale annexation, and absorbed territory 
after territory in Central Asia, she did not deem it 
either expedient or necessary to consult the wishes or 
the feelings of Great Britain, nor am I aware that she 
considered it necessary to obtain the permission of this 
country prior to concluding the treaty of Bokhara of 
1873. Should Russia feel obliged to raise objections 
to the appointment at any future time of an English 
representative at the capital of Tibet, she might with 
advantage be asked to rehearse article xvi. of the said 
treaty, which presents a striking analogy : The Russian 
Government may in like manner have a permanent 
representative in Bokhara, who shall be near the person 
of his Eminence the Amir." There is very little likeli- 
hood of our ever finding it necessary or desirable to 
demand from Tibet a fraction of the concessions that 
Russia upon that occasion demanded and secured from 
Bokhara ; but even if we did, it is difficult to see how, 
with the words of that treaty before her, she could 
manufacture any logical objection to our doing so. 

1 See Markham's 'Tibet.' 



The question of Tibet must be settled between Great 
Britain and that country, without reference to any- 
exterior Power. And in a pohcy such as the declared 
policy of the Indian Government, which is a policy not 
of aggrandisement or aggression, but directed solely 
towards the consolidation and protection of our lawful 
interests, they may rest assured that they have the 
support and confidence of the British people. 





Commerce of the Far East — Great Britain's ideal ' the open door ' — 
Russia's first mouthful of Manchurian territory — The second phase 
of the Manchurian question — Events following upon the conclusion 
of the treaty of Shimonoseki — England's isolation — Action of Russia, 
Germany, and France — The Port Arthur incident — British ignorance 
of Far Eastern conditions and affairs — The Intelligence Department 
— The duty of British statesmen to stay the disintegration of the 
Chinese Empire. 

The Chinese question, like the Chinese Empire and 
its population, is a large one, and to write of it in 
all its bearings would require many pages. All that 
I aspire to do here is to touch upon certain phases 
which Far Eastern events have of late years assumed, 
and in doing so I shall keep mainly to those parts 
of the empire with which the journey, the descrip- 
tion of which forms the foundation of this book, 
happened to bring me in contact. 

Commerce, as I have already pointed out, is the 
lever which has raised China to its present unen- 
viable prominence in world politics, and commerce 
it is that must continue to be the will-o'-the-wisp 
to draw Western Powers on through the laby- 
rinthine pathways of diplomatic mazes in the 
remote East — for commerce, large as it already is, 
must inevitably continue to expand and further 



increase, though not perhaps to the extent that 
the mere abstract expression " 400,000,000 of con- 
sumers " might not unnaturally suggest. It is not 
perhaps sufficiently recognised when talking of the 
commercial possibilities of China that, as Sir Robert 
Hart puts it, " China needs neither import nor ex- 
port, and can do without foreign intercourse, . . . 
and foreign traders can only hope to dispose of their 
merchandise there in proportion to the new tastes 
they introduce, the new wants they create, and the 
care they take to supply what the demand really 
means." ^ 

Still, commerce always did, and always will lie 
at the root of the Chinese question, though not so 
exclusively perhaps in the future as in the past. 
For a desire among European nations to secure each 
for itself as large a share of the trade as possible, 
has led to not always amicable contact among them, 
and to an unfortunate failure on the part of some 
of them, as far as China itself is concerned, to make 
any accurate distinction between meum and tuum. 
Moreover, reservations must be made in this, as in 
other generalities, more especially in this instance 
in the case of Russia and Japan, the former of 
which has been largely influenced in her Far 
Eastern progress by her innate craving for access 
to a warm -water sea, and the latter by the ne- 
cessity, owing to her geographical position and the 
encroachment of the former, of securing the safety 
of her empire. 

Great Britain's ideal in the Far East, as else- 
where, can be summed up in the words, " the open 
door." There are many other terms by which it has 
been expressed, such as " integrity," or a fair field 

^ These from the Land of Sinim. 



and no favour " ; but this variety of nomenclature in 
no way affects the guiding principle, and it must be 
admitted that this ideal has from first to last re- 
mained constant, however inconsistent the methods 
by which it has been sought from time to time to 
secure it. Other Powers that neither enjoyed the 
same start that British enterprise gave to British 
merchants in China, nor possess the same commer- 
cial aptitude, entertain no such admiration for the 
policy of the open door, and therein is to be found 
one of the factors which are always threatening to 
create a destructive upheaval of the Chinese vol- 
cano. The other is the innate, indestructible, and 
illimitable hatred of the Chinese themselves for 
every one and every thing that is not of their 
own race. 

One of the greatest blows that have as yet been 
struck at the integrity of China, and de facto at 
the British ideal, is the absorption of Manchuria ; 
and as it is only Northern China, if I except the 
extreme western limits of that empire, that I have 
any personal acquaintance with, Manchuria is the 
core round which I weave my tale. 

The first mouthful of Manchurian territory which 
Russia swallowed was bitten off in the 'Fifties, when 
the indefatigable Muravieff* was pushing his activity 
down the Amur river. The treaty of Aigun, con- 
cluded in 1858, corrected some of the mistakes made 
by Golovin in 1689, and a further treaty concluded 
at Peking in 1860 gave diplomatic sanction to the 
already effected occupation of Possiet Bay, by ceding 
to Russia the whole of the coast-line of Manchuria 
as far as the borders of Korea. The victorious 
armies of England and France were in occupation 
of Peking, and the nightmare of a prolonged ; Euro- 



pean occupation hung heavily upon the minds of 
Chinese statesmen, when a friend in need appeared 
upon the scene. General IgnatiefF, who, of course, 
saw that the occupation could be only temporary, 
likewise saw that the Chinese understanding was so 
unhinged with terror as not to be able to grasp 
so obvious a fact for itself, and was not slow to 
take advantage of this aberration. Kussia had 
always entertained feelings of deep friendship for 
China, she would now give tangible proof of her 
kindly feeling, she would induce the allies to with- 
draw. So ran the tenor of his tale. Grateful China, 
or rather China as represented by Prince Kung, fell 
at her benefactor's feet. What could she do to repay 
* such kindness ? The General thought that a slight 
readjustment of the Russo- Chinese frontier might be 
accepted as a token of Chinese gratitude, and the 
treaty of Peking was signed. Of course the allies 
withdrew, equally of course their withdrawal had 
nothing to do with the Russian envoy. 

So ended the first phase of the Manchurian question. 
The second phase opened amid the clash of arms, and 
the country that had slumbered in obscurity for thirty 
years was displayed to the Powers of the West under 
the lurid light of war. A new star had ascended in 
the Eastern sky, and henceforth Japan became a Power 
to be reckoned with in the councils of the East. 

The cause of the Chino- Japan war of 1894 has never 
been disclosed. " To defeat China " appears to be the 
only definite reason that has ever been assigned, though 
the moral right of one Power to make war on another 
for the mere pleasure of defeating it would seem to be, 
to say the least of it, questionable. The probability is 
that Japan was blessed with far-seeing statesmen, who 
foresaw the likelihood of a powerful rival some day 



raising up hostile influences in territory unpleasantly- 
close to their island empire, and, realising with unerring 
intuition the menace to their security, determined to be 
first in the field. They had doubtless watched with 
interest the invariable outcome of diplomatic encounters 
between British and Russian statesmen in Asia in the 
past, and were consequently able to gauge at its correct 
value the pledge given to Great Britain by Russia in 
1886, that she would not occupy Korean territory 
" under any circumstances whatever." Be that as it 
may, war was waged with a success that elicited a 
chorus of approbation from the European press ; the 
pretensions of China to be regarded as an entity in the 
comity of nations were rudely shattered, and a treaty 
was signed, which among other things gave over to 
Japan that part of Manchuria which is known as the 
Liao-tung Peninsula. 

The proceedings which immediately followed upon 
the conclusion of the treaty of Shimonoseki are only too 
well known. Japan in possession of the southern 
coast of Manchuria was inimical to Hussian aspirations. 
The object of years of patient toil and persevering 
diplomacy was thereby frustrated, and Japan's enjoy- 
ment of territorial acquisition w^as doomed to be short- 
lived. It is generally admitted that Li Hung Chang 
proceeded to Shimonoseki with the comforting know- 
ledge that the more grasping the demands of the victor, 
the more certain was the prospect of European inter- 
vention. And so he signed away integral portions of 
the Chinese Empire with unabashed complacency. Nor 
was he disappointed at the sequel. With the co- 
operation of Germany and France, Bussia addressed 
Japan in April 1895 as follows : — 

" The Imperial Bussian Government, having ex- 
amined the terms of peace demanded of China by 

2 A 



Japan, consider that the contemplated possession of the 
Liao-tung Peninsula by Japan will not only constitute 
a constant menace to the capital of China, but will also 
render the independence of Korea illusory, and thus 
jeopardise the permanent peace of the Far East. 
Accordingly, the Imperial Government, in a spirit of 
cordial friendship for Japan, hereby counsel the Gov- 
ernment of the Emperor of Japan to renounce the 
definitive possession of the Liao-tung Peninsula." 

The result of this note, which practically amounted to 
an ultimatum, could never be in doubt. Japan was at 
the time in no position to defy three first-class Powers, 
and since England stood aside in self-laudatory isola- 
tion, nothing remained to be done but to obey. Her 
endeavour to obtain a pledge from China that the terri- 
tories she was evacuating should never be ceded to 
another Power was unavailing, Kussia professing an 
injured resentment at such an imputation upon her 

It has been the practice with a certain section of 
English politicians to extol the policy of masterly in- 
activity of the Rosebery Cabinet upon this occasion. 
Nevertheless there is no doubt whatsoever that therein 
lay the first of a series of extraordinary blunders which 
characterised British policy in China during the imme- 
diately succeeding years. British interference could 
only have been directed towards emphasising the demand 
of Japanese statesmen for a guarantee that the Liao- 
tung Peninsula should not be alienated in the future, a 
pledge which would have rendered the subsequent pro- 
ceedings of Bussia indefensible. Moreover, whatever.^ 
paroxysms of delight our voluntary isolation may have 
excited in the breasts of the Bosebery following, our 
immediately resulting involuntary isolation in affairs 
Chinese when the claims of the three protesting nations 



had to be settled, and might, beneath whose brutal 
sway treaties and agreements were scattered as chaff 
before the wind, became sole arbiter, was nothing less 
than disastrous to British commerce and prestige. 

France opened the ball by extracting China's signa- 
ture to a treaty the provisions of which were in direct 
contravention to those of an already existing agreement 
between England and China ; but England was now a 
negligible quantity as compared with the Russo-Franco- 
German combination, and could be, and in fact was, 

Russia lost little time in making her presence felt. 
A loan for £16,000,000, arranged for between China 
and English capitalists, was peremptorily vetoed, and 
the Chinese compelled to borrow from France, — Russia 
herself, without any such request having been made 
by China, standing security for the solvency of that 
country ; and in 1896 she concluded an agreement 
which prepared the way for carrying out her ambitious 
programme of conquest by railway in Manchuria, The 
acquisition of the warm -water port which was to con- 
stitute the terminus of the railway was facilitated by 
the high-handed action of Germany in seizing the 
harbour of Kiao Chau, and in exacting official sanction 
for her occupation of the Shan-tung Promontory after 
she had done so, as well as by the extraordinary pro- 
cedure of British statesmen at this critical period. 

The dramatic proceedings in connection with the Port 
Arthur incident are of such recent occurrence, and are 
so well known to all who have interested themselves in 
Far Eastern affairs, as to make anything more than a 
brief summary unnecessary. The first act opens with a 
soliloquy by a British Cabinet Minister, gratuitously 
informing the British public, in an audible aside, that 
" so far from regarding with fear and jealousy a com- 



mercial outlet for Russia in the Pacific," he would 
"welcome such a result as a distinct advance in this 
far-distant region." ^ Russian statesmen were naturally- 
astounded at so unexpected an invitation ; and having 
been given an inch, they were not slow to take the 
proverbial ell. In December 1897 the Russian fleet 
received permission to winter at Port Arthur, the im- 
portance of which move seems to have been fully appre- 
ciated by the British Minister at Peking, for on being 
consulted by the British Government as to what they 
should demand from China in return for the advance of 
a British loan, he promptly replied, the opening of 
Talienwan as a treaty port. But Russia was pursuing 
a determined and definite policy, and unconditionally 
opposed such a step. No doubt Russian statesmen 
saw in England's demand for the opening of Talienwan 
a distinct breach of faith when viewed in the light of 
the unfortunate declaration of 1896; and it is difficult 
to see under the circumstances any flaw in the Russian 
Ambassador s statement to Lord Salisbury, " that it 
was generally admitted that Russia might claim a com- 
mercial debouche upon the open sea, and in order to 
enjoy that advantage fully she ought to be at liberty to 
make such arrangements with China as she could obtain 
with respect to the commercial regime which was to 
prevail there." ^ Since British statesmen had declared 
that the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1886 concerning 
Korea was still binding, what other port but Talien- 
wan could she secure as the oflered commercial out- 
let " ? Needless to say Talienwan remained closed. 

But this decline of British influence at Peking before 
the increased prestige of Russia was not the only humili- 
ation that overtook Great Britain in the gloomy days 

1 Mr Balfour at Bristol, February 3, 1896. 

2 January 19, 1898. 




of the January of 1898. The presence of a British 
vessel, H.M.S. Iphigenia, which was visiting Port 
Arthur, as it had every right to do under the treaty of 
Tientsin, was objected to by the Kussian authorities, 
who made representations to the British Government 
to this effect. While pointing out to the Russian 
Ambassador that British ships had every right to be 
there, Lord Salisbury issued no orders to prevent them 
leaving, with a result that as soon as the Iphigenia left 
the port, a Renter's telegram was published in Peking, 
stating that it was officially announced at St Petersburg 
that British men-of-war had received orders to quit 
Port Arthur immediately in consequence of representa- 
tions made by Bussia. The effect of this report may be 
well imagined. 

In reply to these unfortunate occurrences on the 
Pacific, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated 
in the House of Commons in February that " the right 
to send ships of war to Port Arthur was a right which 
we enjoyed together with other Powers under the 
treaty of Tientsin, and, when occasion arose, we should 
do it again." Unfortunately the occasion never did 
arise, nor did we do it again ; for in March Bussia 
forced from China a lease of both Talienwan and Port 
Arthur, and included in the convention connected with 
it an article which reads as follows : " The two nations 
agree that Port Arthur shall be a naval port for the 
sole use of Bussian and Chinese men-of-war, and be 
considered as an unopened port so far as the naval and 
mercantile vessels of other nations are concerned." 

Thus did we stand idly by and view our treaty rights 
played fast and loose with, in spite of the heroic state- 
ment by the Prime Minister — that there was no effort 
which this country would not make rather than allow 
its rights to be destroyed ! No wonder that a Bussian 



official was led in his jubilation to exclaim, " We knew 
very well that England would solemnly protest, but 
we also knew as well that she would also solemnly do 
nothing," or that the same individual candidly confessed 
that that was the reason why, " from the day of her last 
statesman Disraeli until now, we have not counted, and 
do not count, on real opposition from England." 

Russia was of course accused of bad faith, and rightly 
too, when it was discovered that Port Arthur was to be 
a closed port. But Russian aims were made perfectly 
clear — if indeed they had not been long before — by the 
statement of Count Muravieiff to Sir Nicholas O'Conor 
on March 13, that he had received the Emperor's orders 
to tell him that Talienwan would be open to foreign 
trade, but that his Imperial Majesty had told him at 
the same time that Port Arthur would be regarded 
strictly as a military port." Under stress of British 
importunity it became necessary that this clear lan- 
guage should be modified, pending negotiations for the 
acquisition of the ports in question, and on March 15 
the British ambassador was informed that " both Port 
Arthur and Talienwan would be open to foreign trade." 
Article vi. of the convention already quoted is of 
course in direct contravention of these assurances ; 
but surely British statesmen should have been suffi- 
ciently well acquainted with Russian diplomatic 
methods by this time to realise that Count Muravieff 
would find little difficulty in asserting — as in fact he 
did — that " the ideas " which he had expressed " very 
confidentially" on March 16, with regard to the pro- 
posed lease of Port Arthur and Talienwan, ought 
never to have been interpreted as assurances, and 
could not in reality have had such a significance." 

It is natural to seek for some explanation of the 
extraordinary vagaries of British diplomacy at this 



period, and there can be little doubt that it was in 
great measure due to ignorance of Far Eastern con- 
ditions and affairs. Lack of information had led to 
the policy of passive spectatorship at the time of the 
Chino- Japan complications of 1895, and a complete 
failure to grasp the real objects of Russian desire, or 
to appreciate the modifying effect which certain in- 
cidents — such as the German seizure of Kiao Chau — 
had upon the mode of procedure employed by her in 
obtaining them, can alone have been responsible for 
the succeeding period of ineptitude. The British In- 
telligence Department in the Far East, or rather the 
lack of it, is absolutely astounding. There was a 
story current when I was in those parts of how, 
when the extension on the mainland opposite Hong- 
kong was ceded to Great Britain in 1898, the military 
authorities, being ignorant of the lie of the land, 
called in the aid of some Hongkong sportsmen who 
were in the habit of indulging, by way of recreation, 
in an occasional afternoon's snipe-shooting. Yet it is 
on record that the said authorities displayed con- 
siderable annoyance, if not indeed indignation, when 
they found themselves floundering in a snipe-bog ! 

It has been suggested, with a view to increasing our 
official knowledge of China, that intelligence depart- 
ments, with a head officer in charge in each case, should 
be created at Hongkong or Canton, at Shanghai, and at 
Tientsin, a third of the country being assigned to each 
body ; but, as far as I know, there is at the present 
time only one, at Tientsin. It is only fair to state that, 
in light of the revelations of the recent War Commis- 
sion, it would appear that the intelligence branch itself 
is not to be blamed for its inefficiency. There is much 
that is significant in Sir John Ardagh's reply to question 
5011 of the official report issued upon the inquiry into 



the conduct of the war : "I put forward an official 
application to the War Office, but it received so much 
cold water from the financial point of view that it came 
to nothing. The end of my proposal of £18,000 a-year 
for ten years was an offer of £100 ! " ^ 

The events of 1895-1898, however, cast an illuminat- 
ing light upon the ambitions of certain Powers, and it 
became impossible to refuse to recognise the serious 
nature of the process of decomposition which had set in. 
To stay the collapse of the Chinese Empire, as they were 
endeavouring to stay the collapse of more than one 
oriental monarchy in other parts of Asia, became the 
manifest duty of British statesmen — a task in which, as 
will be seen, they have found ready coadjutors in the 
Government of Japan. Events had proceeded too far 
to admit of any rapid reversal in the process, and the 
proceedings, which have finally culminated in the pres- 
ent Far Eastern cataclysm, were spread over a number 
of years, to a brief account of which I shall devote the 
pages of another chapter. 

1 It must be admitted that private enterprise stands out in strong con- 
trast to official insouciance^ and it speaks volumes for the mettle of indi- 
viduals that they are willing to secure information of value to their 
country even at the risk of official displeasure. Here is a case in point. A 
young officer keenly interested in the advancement of his country gave up 
his leave to making valuable surveys of certain parts of China. In order 
to complete them he outstayed his leave by a few days, and on his return, 
after successfully accomplishing his object, he received his reward. 
" Official thanks for his trouble and valuable information," I hazarded 
when I was first told the story. "Nothing of the sort," was the reply. 
" What then ? " I asked. " A fine for missing two or three days' regi- 
mental duty ! " 



THE FAR EAST — Continued. 

The British awakening at Peking — The present value of Wei-hai-Wei — 
Germany at Kiao Chau — The reform movement — A dramatic coup 
d'etat — The Boxer outbreak of 1900 — A colossal scheme of regeneration 
— Russia's demands as the price of the evacuation of Manchuria — 
The Manchurian Convention of 1902 — Manchuria seen once more 
under the searching light of war — Points to be borne in mind in 
weighing the chances of Russia and Japan — Russian lack of organisa- 
tion — Ofl&cial corruption — Capabilities of the Siberian railway — The 
Russian army — The soldiers of the Mikado — Bushido — The patriotism 
of the people — Victory in the field likely to attend the Japanese 
forces — The fate of Russia rests with the Russian people. 

If the year 1898 was remarkable for the bold execution 
of Russian designs, it was also made memorable by two 
other events — the awakening of British statesmen from 
their inexplicable dream, and the amazing attempt of 
the Emperor Kwang Hsti at reform ! A glimmering 
perception of the real goal towards which events in the 
Far East were rapidly drifting seems to have at length 
cast a ray of light across the darkness of the British 
mind. Strong representations were made at Peking, 
and various concessions secured in the opening days of 
the year, among which were a declaration on the part 
of the Tsungli-Yamen that territory in the Yang-tse 
region should not be mortgaged, leased, or ceded to 
anothe? Power, and a promise that as long as British 
trade preponderated over that of any other Power, the 



post of Inspector- General of Customs should be held by 
an Englishman ; while Lord Salisbury, bearing in mind 
no doubt the Bristol speech of 1896, declared in March 
that whereas his Government had always looked with 
favour upon the idea of Russia obtaining an ice-free 
port on the Pacific, " Russia had now given a most 
unfortunate extension to this policy." The tangible 
proof of the official awakening was the acquisition of 
Wei-hai-wei for such period as Russia occupied Port 
Arthur, and this was followed nearly four years later 
by the Anglo-Japanese alliance, contracted at a time 
when Russia was endeavouring to extort a brand-new 
set of absolutely preposterous concessions from China 
as the price of her evacuation of Manchuria — a tardy 
recognition of the dismal failure of the policy of isola- 
tion of 1895. 

The value of Wei-hai-wei ^ is, as I have had occasion 
to remark in a previous chapter, under existing circum- 
stances hypothetical. It is hardly conceivable that in 
the event of Great Britain going to war, any British 
captain would consent to allow his ship to remain in an 
open harbour where it could at any moment be tor- 
pedoed, or that anything else could be done with the 
coal-supply now kept on the island in the harbour- 
mouth than to shift it precipitately into the sea. When 
in the hands of China, it was fortified at a cost of 
from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000, and no doubt thor- 
oughly to refortify the island and the mainland now 

1 The harbour of Wei-hai-wei, which is said to be capable of holding 
from thirty to forty men-of-war, — though I believe sixteen is the largest 
number that we have ever had in the harbour at one time, — is faced by an 
island, which divides the entrance into two channels. The narrow entrance 
is from 1200 to 1400 yards in width, and the broader channel from 2 to 3 
miles, and shallow for the greater part. To render the harbour secure from 
torpedo attack it would be necessary to construct a breakwater across this 
passage, at a probable cost of £1,000,000. 



would entail a very large expenditure, and would neces- 
sitate the presence of a number of troops, variously 
estimated at from 3000 to 10,000 men. I do not pre- 
tend to decide between the experts who are in favour of 
or opposed to the fortifying of the port ; but even the 
disciples of the latter policy appear to admit that a few 
guns might be of advantage, as witness the words of 
"Navalis" in * The Times': "No one doubts certain 
ports require a few efficient guns, but anything more 
than this is a culpable waste of the national resources." 
But where are the guns at Wei-hai-wei ? As I have 
already pointed out, Wei-hai-wei presents to the aston- 
ished gaze the sublimely ridiculous spectacle of five new 
and scientifically built forts, which cannot boast of so 
much as a pop-gun between them ! ^ And while we are 
spending a modest annual sum of perhaps £20,000 a- 
year on military and civil administration combined, ^ 
Germany, just round the corner at Kiao Chau, is con- 
structing a harbour at a cost of £1,000,000, and is 
willingly spending on her acquisition at the rate of 
£600,000 a-yearl 

The movement of reform was as astonishing as it was 
transient. On January 17, 1898, was issued an imperial 
edict which placed it on record, among much else, that 
" the question of the present day is that we begin in 
reforming ourselves, and diligently reorganise our de- 
fences." Once started, edict followed edict with be- 
wildering rapidity, all overflowing with the expression 

^ Vice-Admiral C. C. Penrose Fitz-Gerald writes : " Had Wei-hai-wei 
been given the modest fortifications which were decided upon three years 
ago, not even Rehoboam in a gunboat would have had the temerity to 
attack it, and, even if he had, it would probably have held out until the 
squadron returned to relieve it." — 'Times,' March 31, 1904. 

2 A colonial grant of £9000 a-year is allowed for civil administration on 
the mainland, while the cost of the 500 men to which the original Anglo- 
Chinese regiment has been reduced probably amounts to £10,000 or 
£12,000. The island is given over to the Admiralty. 



of the imperial desire for reform. " If we wish to make 
ourselves strong once more, there is no other way than 
to cast away from us the old regime and inaugurate a 
modern one," or again, China's weakness really lies in 
her lazy officials and the deep-rootedness of all ancient 
vices," are but instances of the admirable tenor of the 
imperial decrees. 

But if these edicts sounded like glad tidings of great 
joy to the amazed onlookers from the West, there was 
one near by upon whose ears they fell with all the 
jarring force of a harsh cacophony. And that one 
waited but her time to strike. On September 21 came 
the dramatic coup d'etat by which the reformer was 
relegated to the poisoned influences of forced seclusion 
behind the prison bars of the hareem, and the Dowager- 
Empress Tze-hsi-tuan-yu emerged once more as the 
dea ex machina to guide her erring Government back 
along the dark pathway of reaction. The young shoots 
of incipient reform were rudely crushed beneath the 
reign of terror that immediately ensued, while a par- 
alysed world looked on appalled. Six of the ministers 
most closely connected with the movement of reform 
were led out to execution by the notorious Kang Yi, 
who marched triumphantly into the court of justice 
where it was supposed the prisoners were to be tried, 
and hilariously read out the sacred contents of a decree 
which doomed them to instant death. There was 
nothing more to be said, and decapitation followed 
without further loss of time. Reform was at an end 
and reaction in full swing. ^ 

1 The decree of September 21, 1898, framed by the Dowager-Empress 
to acquaint the people with the abdication of the Emperor, is worthy of 
reproduction : " Our empire is now labouring under great difficulties, and 
therefore it is necessary to delay the question of ordinary reforms. We 
have worked energetically and laboriously at our duty, day and night, so 
that after attending closely to a myriad of matters we have often felt much 



The next violent upheaval of the Chinese volcano 
took the shape of the Boxer rising and siege of the 
legations at Peking, and it was not until an inter- 
national force had dispelled the dark cloud of obscurity 
which enveloped the victims of the troubles of 1900 
that reform again became a subject of discussion. 
There is evidence of some slight improvement in the 
internal condition of the country in the past two years, 
and the Peking correspondent of ' The Times,' while 
admitting that " the Wai-wu-pu is the same cumbrous 
body as was the Tsungli-Yamen, the only change be- 
ing a reduction of the number of ministers and an 
alteration of the shape of the table at which they sit," 
affirms that the internal condition of the country is 
unquestionably better in 1904 than it was at the 
beginning of 1903. 

There is little, however, to suggest that the colossal 
scheme of financial and military reorganisation which 
has recently been propounded by Sir Robert Hart has 
any great prospects of fulfilment. Sir Robert Hart 
is, as I well know, a staunch believer in the future 
regeneration of China ; but can even the sturdiest 
believer in the latent possibilities of the Chinese re- 
lassitude in body. This brought us to the thought that her Majesty, the 
Empress-Dowager Tze-hsi-tuan-yu, &c., had since the reign of the late 
Emperor Tung Chih twice held the regency with much success, and that 
although the empire was then also labouring under great difficulties she 
always issued triumphant and successful when grappling with critical 
questions. Now we consider the safety of the empire handed down to us 
by our imperial ancestors above all things else ; hence under the critical 
condition of things now pending over us we have thrice petitioned her 
Majesty to graciously accede to our prayer and personally give us the 
benefit of her wise instructions in the government of this empire. She 
has, fortunately for the prosperity of the officials and inhabitants of the 
empire, granted our request, and from to-day on her Majesty will conduct 
the affairs of State in the ordinary throne-hall." This and the other reform 
edicts of the Emperor Kwang Hsii have been reprinted in pamphlet form 
from ' The North China Daily News.' 



gard as anything but chimerical a measure of reform 
which is in the course of a few years to give to China 
an increased annual revenue of £40,000,000, a fleet 
consisting of 30 battleships and first-class cruisers, 30 
second-class cruisers and as many destroyers, with a 
flotilla of 150 torpedo-boats, three naval and four 
military colleges, four arsenals, an up-to-date army of 
500,000 on a peace footing, and last, but not least, 
a new and incorruptible set of officials ! Omnia vincit 
labor improhus ! But are the difficulties which await 
Sir E/obert Hart likely to prove less insurmountable 
than those that attended the shades of the daughters 
of Danaus ? The task might well recall the unavailing 
endeavour of a Sisyphus — 

" One — but the type of all — 
Eolling the dreadful ball 
In vain / in vain ! " ^ 

The Boxer rising of 1900, as all the world knows, 
afforded Russia the excuse for which she was waiting 
to complete the process of absorption inaugurated by 
Muravieff* and Ignatieff* in the 'Fifties. Had there 
been no Boxer outbreak it would have made no differ- 
ence, for it is in no way open to doubt that when 
Bussia spent a fortune on Manchuria and built a 
railway from one end of it to the other she did so 
with the fixed conviction that that country was 
destined to be hers. " Is it really possible," asks 
the ' Pre - Amur Viedomosti,' " that the Americans 
imagine that Russia has spent so much treasure and 
blood on Manchuria simply in order to convert it into 
an international bazaar ? Do American editors really 
seriously imagine that Russian officers who have 
traversed Manchuria through and through in peril 

^ Charles Mackay. 



and suffering, constructing the railway and defending 
it from hordes of Boxers ; that the Russian Cossacks 
and soldiers who have performed miracles of valour in 
the last Chinese war — modestly termed troubles — have 
suffered all this, and fallen on the field of battle, for 
the sake of foreign commercial firms ? It was not for 
this that Russia has done what she has. In one word, 
we have fought and laboured in Manchuria not for the 
sake of open doors." And so the Manchurian phase 
of 1900-1904, displaying Russia in occupation of the 
field, was the natural corollary of those that had 
already been enacted. 

Russian statesmen no doubt realised that at the 
conclusion of the Boxer troubles they might be obliged 
under external pressure to effect a partial and tem- 
porary evacuation of the country ; and bearing this 
in mind, they were not slow to determine that such 
evacuation, if it became necessary, should be made the 
lever for securing important and valuable concessions. 
Hence the many troublesome documents which dis- 
turbed the peace of the inmates of more than one 
chancellory from the opening days of 1901 until the 
early part of 1902, when the publication of the Anglo- 
Japanese treaty was instrumental in hastening on 
the conclusion in March of that year of a more or 
less satisfactory convention for the evacuation of 

The demands formulated in the previous documents 
are of considerable interest, as showing the wide scope 
of Russian aspirations. The chief provisions were to 
have been as follows : (1) An increase in the number of 
troops originally granted for the protection of the rail- 
way ; (2) the numbers of any future Chinese army to 
be fixed in consultation with Russia; (3) no subject of 
another Power to be employed to train naval or military 



forces in the northern provinces ; (4) without Russia's 
consent no mining, railway, or other privileges to be 
conceded to the subjects of another Power in Manchuria, 
Mongolia, Tarbagatai, Hi, Kashgar, Yarkand, or Khoten, 
and China herself not to construct a railway in those 
provinces without Russia's consent ; (5) indemnities due 
to Russia to be set off, if desirable, against privileges of 
other kinds ; and (6) Russia to have the right to build 
a railway to the Great Wall in the direction of Peking. 

The convention, eventually concluded in March, was 
a vast improvement on previous propositions, and though 
there were several points which were not deemed com- 
pletely satisfactory in this country. Lord Lansdowne 
informed the Russian Ambassador that he " did not 
desire to examine these provisions too microscopically," 
and hoped that " the Agreement would be loyally and 
considerately interpreted on both sides." 

But if the convention signed in March 1902 was more 
or less satisfactory to other interested Powers, it was 
very far from being so to Russia ; and there can be 
very little doubt that when she signed it, under pres- 
sure of the Anglo- Japanese Alliance, she did so with 
the mental reservation that she in no way considered 
herself bound by it. Inconvenient pressure was thereby 
temporarily removed, and she was content to await what 
the future would bring forth. Those, therefore, who 
had all along clearly foreseen what was the real object 
of Russian desire were no doubt fully prepared for the 
delay in the evacuation, and the news, which came a 
year later, of a further set of Russian demands, and 
again in September 1903 of similar conditions. 

It is unnecessary to enumerate the various subter- 
fuges under cover of which Russia found it possible to 
postpone the evacuation, and even to reoccupy such 
portions of the country as had actually been given back. 



The old cry of the impotence of the rightful owners to 
keep order, which has been made use of so often and 
with so great a degree of success by Russia in her 
dealings with oriental countries, of course played its 
share in the game, and, " in consequence of the agitation 
which prevailed in the district," Russian troops re- 
entered Mukden in October 1903. This in spite of the 
fact that as far back as November 1902 Consul Hosie 
reported that under the recently appointed Chinese 
Governor-General at Mukden far better order was being 
maintained than during the Russian occupation, and 
that " numerous heads exposed on trees along the high- 
ways " bore witness to the vigorous measures that were 
being taken to suppress brigandage ! 

So the farce dragged on until the audience wearied of 
the gratuitous repetition of Russian assurances, and 
even diplomatists were seen to yawn and lose some- 
thing of their usual urbanity in shaping their replies. 
" Russia," ran a memorandum communicated by the 
Russian Ambassador so recently as January 8 of this 
year, " considers it indispensable to declare from this 
day forth that she has no intention whatever of placing 
any obstacle in the way of the continued enjoyment by 
foreign Powers of the rights acquired by them in virtue 
of the treaties now in force." In reply to which even 
so courteous a diplomatist as Lord Lansdowne was 
unable " to help regretting that Russia should have 
found it impossible to take even a single step in pur- 
suance of the policy which she had thus prescribed for 
herself," or to show some concrete evidence" of her 
intention to make good her promises. 

The present phase of the Manchurian question is 
one which has drawn the awakened curiosity of the 
Avorld to that hitherto little-considered country, for 
once more does the searching light of war play upon 

2 B 



the dark corners of the ancient home of the Manchus, 
and for the second time in the course of a single 
decade are the mountains and valleys of Shing King 
reverberating with the stirring strains of martial 
music, and the deep intonation of the cannon's roar. 

Kussia bluffed high, and having done so expected 
to take the pool. That any one would dare to call 
her hand seems hardly to have occurred to her. 
Yet it was Russia herself who only nine years be- 
fore had laid down the circumstances which would 
constitute a case for war. " The contemplated pos- 
session of the Liao - tung Peninsula by Japan will 
not only constitute a constant menace to the capital 
of China, but will also render the independence of 
Korea illusory, and thus jeopardise the permanent 
peace of the Far East." ^ Fortunately such a catas- 
trophe was at the time averted, thanks to the with- 
drawal of Japan. In 1904 Russia possessed the Liao- 
tung Peninsula, and not only did she possess the 
Liao - tung Peninsula but maintained a military 
occupation of the whole of the hinterland, and a 
threatening force the whole length of the borders 
of Korea. Could it logically be said that the Russ- 
ian position of 1904 was less likely to "constitute 
a constant menace to the capital of China, to render 
illusory the independence of Korea, and thus jeop- 
ardise the permanent peace of the Far East," than 
the Japanese position of 1895 ? Russian statesmen 
have short memories when it is convenient for them 
to forget ; but with these little facts recalled to their 
mind, surely they should be the last people in the 
world to accuse Japan of making war without ample 
and reasonable grounds. 

Who is going to win ? is the question which every- 

^ The Eussian representation to Japan in April 1895. 



body is asking everybody else. There are too many 
unknown quantities to tempt any one to prophesy, 
and positiveness in such matters," as Captain 
Mahan would say, " is the doubtful privilege of the 
doctrinaire, and commonly unfortunate in the result." 
There are, however, a few points which, being borne 
in mind by any one attempting to form a judgment, 
may be of help in assisting towards arriving at a 
reasonable conclusion. 

There is the extraordinary contempt which was at 
the outset displayed by Russia for the opposition of 
Japan. In face of persistent ofi&cial denial, the fact 
remains that on the historic Monday night of Feb- 
ruary 8 (1904), while the ships of Admiral Togo, 
which were destined to declare the fateful message 
to the world in their own dramatic way, were steal- 
ing up to their sleeping foe, the pleasure - loving 
Russians, who, in view of the extremely critical 
state of the relations between the two Powers, 
should have been sleeping at their post on the 
ships and in the forts, had betaken themselves 
wholesale to a gala performance at a circus ! For 
the first serious reverse which they sustained the 
Russians have mainly themselves to thank. 

There are two points which must never be lost 
sight of when considering the prospects of any Russ- 
ian military undertaking — absence of organisation, 
and ingrained official corruption. Those who know 
Russia well will tell you that Russian organisation 
is a hideous travesty of the word. To quote a single 
example of Russian efficiency. Sir Robert Hart, when 
discussing the merits of the various units of the 
mixed detachment that succeeded in making its way 
to Peking immediately prior to the siege of 1900, 
writes : "As for the Russians, they brought a thou- 



sand rounds of shell for their gun and neglected to 
bring the field-gun itself, which remained at Tientsin 
— to our great grief afterwards, when it would have 
been of untold value at Peking ! " ^ 

Corruption, it is to be feared, is deep-rooted and 
widespread. " Look to thy office and indemnify thy- 
self " was the perilous advice of the old Russian Tsars, 
advice which, it must be admitted, was universally acted 
upon. Peter the Great, it is true, waged unappeasable 
warfare against this deeply-rooted abuse, and on one 
occasion condemned an offending governor of Astrakhan 
"to be torn by pigs ! " But how little available were 
his laudable endeavours may be judged by the fact that 
Alexander II., when campaigning with his army in 
Bulgaria during the Russo-Turkish war, is reported to 
have said that there were only two honest men in the 
Russian army, and one of those men was Tsar Alexander 
11. and the other was the heir to his throne ! It is 
only too probable that the stories to the effect that 
bags of sand masquerade as sacks of flour in many a 
Russian store, and that cases filled chiefly with shavings 
and sawdust reach the troops, in place of the offerings 
made by private charity for their comfort, will prove to 
have only too solid foundation. 

In the case of the present war, the limited possibilities 
of the Russian communications must also be kept in 
view. Mr Henry Norman, whose Russian sympathies 
are well known, admits that " the expectation that the 
line would serve at a moment of danger, or in pursuit of 
a suddenly executed coup^ to throw masses of soldiers 
from Europe into China, is yet far from realisation. 
The line," he goes on, and its organisation would 
break down utterly under such pressure," and I know of 
no single instance of any one who has had any practical 

^ These from the Land of Sinim. 



acquaintance with the railway having come to any other 
conclusion. So one of the chief essentials in which the 
Russian Empire is superior to J apan — that of numbers — 
is, as long as Japan has command of the sea, to a great 
extent discounted. 

As far as mere material goes, she has little to com- 
plain off. In her Cossacks she has a magnificent force 
of scouts and a mobile body that would constitute a 
valuable asset in any army. Brave, hardy, intrepid, 
accustomed to nothing but the most strenuous life, the 
Cossack is ready at any moment to go anywhere and to 
undertake any adventure. As to the soldier of the line, 
to quote Mr Henry Norman once more, from the 
point of view of the military martinet he is ideal 
kanonen-futter — chair d canon.'' He has, on the other 
hand, what many will vote a serious defect in modern 
warfare — a complete lack of intelligence. The Russian 
soldier of the line is in fact a mere rather dirtily clad 
machine, who is never under any circumstances ex- 
pected to be able to think for himself He will fight 
with a stolid stubborn persistence because he is ordered 
to do so, and not for any reason that his own intelli- 
gence might suggest. That, however, is not the fault 
of the material, but of those who have moulded it, 
though the fact is in no way altered because the re- 
sponsibility for it rests upon one part of the whole 
rather than upon the other. It has, moreover, yet to 
be proved that the Russian military system is capable 
of producing strategists of a standard necessary to 
predicate success when pitted against a foe whose plans 
of campaign are so thoroughly and so systematically 
devised and so conscientiously and so doggedly carried 
out as are those of Japan. 

From a brief consideration of such points as I have 
ventured to call attention to, it will be seen that the 



command of the sea once in the hands of Japan — and 
the mastery of the sea was the first object of Japanese 
strategists — the prospects of a decisive Russian success 
were by no means so bright as was too widely supposed. 
This impression can only be strengthened by a con- 
sideration of the forces at the disposal of the island 

The calibre of the Japanese fighting power was dis- 
played when her troops came into contact with those 
of China in 1894, though her real power was perhaps 
scarcely accurately gauged, since China, which had up 
to that time been proclaimed a tower of strength, was, 
on her defeat, dubbed, with easy inconsistency, a 
negligible foe. The high standard of efficiency which 
she had then displayed was, however, maintained when 
she again came within the range of military criticism. 
" The Japanese contingent," writes Sir Eobert Hart, in 
the same paragraph in which he indulges in his lament 
over the carelessness of the Russians, " numbered only 
twenty-five men ; but the work they subsequently did, 
and the way they did it, won everybody's admiration, 
and would have done honour to five times their num- 
ber," ^ and the fact that it was that part of the city 
apportioned to the troops of Japan, when the time came 
for the pacification of Peking, that was first resettled 
and restored to order, was by no means lost upon the 
minds of the observant. 

Those indeed who watched carefully the operations 
of the international force did not hesitate to place 
the soldiers of the Mikado in the foremost rank, and 
when those whose duty it is to take note of such things 
came to interpret what they had seen with the aid sup- 
plied by a knowledge of the ethics of the nation, they 
cannot have failed to realise that there had sprung up 

* These from the Land of Sinim. 



within the confines of the newly born empire of the 
East a force that was capable at any moment of 
astonishing the world. When one ponders upon the 
innate contempt for death which must be the birth- 
right of a people accustomed for generations to the 
strange national institution of hara-kiri (self-immola- 
tion) ; upon the martial spirit which has for centuries 
been the essence of their national existence ; and upon 
the extreme loyalty and love of king and country 
fostered by the Shintoist belief, — one is bound to 
realise the potentialities of a force constituted of such 
material, and welded into shape in accordance with 
the accepted tenets of the highest modern military 
science and organisation. 

For whatever opinion may be held of the religion 
of the country, it cannot be doubted that the bushido, 
the "Precepts of Knighthood," the philosophy which 
became an abiding principle of the fighting caste, and 
finally of the whole people, has exercised a powerful 
influence upon the history of Japan, and has been 
a determining force in the moulding of the character 
of the nation. And bushido is not dead, for the 
spirit of the Samurai still walks abroad among the 
people who are their descendants. Rectitude, courage, 
benevolence, veracity, honour, and loyalty, the principles 
of a moral code which formed the directing influence 
in the lives of the military caste for generations, still 
blossom with their old fragrance among the soldiers 
of the Mikado to-day. The rectitude of the Japanese 
soldier of to-day is still " the power of deciding upon a 
certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, 
without wavering — to die when it is right to die, to 
strike when to strike is right ; " ^ the duty of loyalty 
is still a virtue in comparison with which no life is 

^ Bushido. Inazo Nitobd. 



too dear to sacrifice, and what further proof can be 
required than the heroic storming of Kin Chau, to 
take but a single instance, that whenever a cause 
presents itself which is considered dearer than life, now 
as in the past, " with utmost serenity and celerity 
life will be laid down." An intense patriotism per- 
meates the whole people. To the Japanese their 
country is more than land and soil from which to 
mine gold or to reap grain — it is the sacred abode 
of the gods, the spirits of their forefathers ; " ^ to them 
the Emperor is the bodily representative of Heaven 
on earth, blending in his person its power and its 
mercy," ^ sentiments which are inculcated by their 
national religion. 

It is this national feeling, the evolution of genera- 
tions, which has become a part of the national 
existence of Japan, that must be reckoned with as an 
intangible power, fighting in the midst of and in- 
spiring her armies. " What won the battles on the 
Yalu, in Korea, and Manchuria," writes the Japanese 
author already quoted, ^ " was the ghosts of our fathers, 
guiding our hands and beating in our hearts. To 
those who have eyes to see they are clearly visible. 
Scratch a Japanese of the most advanced ideas, and 
he will show a Samurai." Lastly, honour — the 
treasured honour of the ancient Samurai, beneath 
whose dazzling ray life itself appeared of small account 
— has been sorely slighted, so that the whole popula- 
tion, from highest to lowest, smarts keenly under the 
humiliation of 1895, and is prepared to wreak vengeance 
upon its authors ; — national feeling, that is, is deeply 
and universally stirred against Russia. 

In light of such considerations the success which has 

^ Bushido. Inazo Nitob^. ^ Ibid. 

2 Inazo Nitobd. 



SO far attended the Japanese arms becomes perfectly 
intelligible, and further victories are indeed to be 
anticipated. Local conquest may well prove to be the 
reward that awaits the Japanese ; but whether such 
success is destined to be productive of lasting material 
result depends neither upon the generals of Japan nor 
upon the Russian armies in the Far East, but upon 
the internal condition of the Russian empire. 

Russia," say her supporters, " will never give in ; 
she will carry on the war for years if need be, 
and, by sheer brute force and stamina, wear out her 
antagonists." That may be, though it rests neither 
with the admirer nor with the critic to decide. How 
long the heart of the Russian people, stirred to action 
by repeated reverses in a war in which they have no 
interest and which they do not understand, will bear 
with a governmental system beneath whose iron heel 
they have long been crushed, is not for the boldest 
vaticinator to foretell. Be it remembered only that 
it is in the heart and fibre of the people in the last 
resort that the fate of nations is fast held. 





The object of British policy — General Chapman quoted — Present conditions 
cannot be permanent — Professor Vambery quoted — India the fulcrum 
of British rule in Asia — Lord Curzon on the internal condition of 

In the concluding section of the present volume I have 
endeavoured to draw attention to the general situation 
in the East, as it affects this country at the present 
time. I am bold enough to hope that in the earlier 
chapters something may have been found in the de- 
scription of Eastern life and Eastern countries that may 
have proved of interest to those who, while unable to 
visit such countries for themselves, have nevertheless a 
fancy for casting an Asian horoscope. 

The present object of British policy has, I hope, been 
made clear — namely, to so guard and strengthen those 
oriental kingdoms which constitute the dividing neutral 
zone between the spheres of influence and interest of 
this country and Russia as to preserve from dangerous 
contact the ambitions of the two great Powers from 
the West to whom has fallen the golden heritage of 
the East. " By the extension of our Indian railway 
system," writes General Chapman, " to adjoining states 
and the development of commerce, we may oppose a 
Russian advance by means other than those of war, 


and ensure a recognition of our Asiatic Empire as 
aiming at the wellbeing and civilisation of all the 
countries coming under its influence," ^ and there can 
be few who will deny that in the gradual extension 
of railways and the fostering of commercial inter- 
course, together with the assumption of a firm atti- 
tude at Constantinople, Teheran, and Peking, are to 
be found the means at our disposal by which we may 
seek to obtain our end. 

But while pursuing a policy which is directed towards 
such a goal, it would be folly to postulate for it any 
probability of finality. The life of the monarchies of 
the ancient world may under skilful treatment be con- 
siderably prolonged, but sooner or later collapse must 
supervene. For " the kingdoms of Islam are crumbling," 
and there is more than one Eastern ruler who may well 
cry with the Amir of Kabul, 

" Around me a voice ever rings, 
Of death, and the doom of my country ; 
Shall I be the last of its kings 1 " ^ 

To those who have eyes to see the fatal handwriting 
is traced clearly upon the wall. The old order passeth 
away, the kingdoms of Asia are being weighed in the 
balance and found wanting, and the days that remain 
to them are numbered. " The endeavour of the Great 
Powers," writes Professor Yambery, " to secure the 
independence and integrity of Persia has only an 
abstract value, for maladministration, anarchy, and 
Asiatic corruption have brought that country to the 
verge of ruin. Its neighbours must needs reckon with 
its forthcoming decay, and England has time enough 
to make good the blunders committed and to protect 

^ "Our Commercial Policy in the East." A paper read before the 
Central Asian Society by General E. F. Chapman, C.B. 
2 Verses written in India. Sir A. Lyall. 



her economic and political interests by an energetic 
policy." ^ 

Let us not be blind, then, to the fact that the day 
must come, be it far off or near at hand, when all that 
is left of old-world despotism shall have been ground 
to chaff between the inexorable millstones of Western 
progress, and that the Power that has toiled and 
wrought with the clearest foresight and the greatest 
amount of determination to secure its position in the 
present, will speak with commanding voice when the 
day of disruption is at hand. An energetic and con- 
sistent policy may retain under the peaceful aegis of 
Great Britain the southern provinces of Persia ; a 
vacillating and half-hearted procedure can only result 
in eventually forcing upon her the unenviable task of 
creating another Gibraltar upon the frowning heights 
of Oman, even should no worse thing befall her. 

All those, then, who have given passing thought to 
the great problems of empire in the East must welcome 
with gratitude the straightforward statements of a 
no half-hearted determination to protect our interests 
there, which have more than once been made in recent 
years by responsible statesmen, and must view with 
satisfaction such signs as are visible of a recrudescence 
of British power. 

And as it is in India that is to be found the fulcrum 
of British rule throughout the East, so it is with pardon- 
able pride and satisfaction that we look back upon the 
years of strenuous endeavour which a succession of 
devoted Englishmen have bestowed upon her. No 
more welcome sound could fall upon the ears of the 
people to whose keeping has been confided the sacred 
trust of an Eastern empire than the words uttered 
by Lord Curzon at the conclusion of a comprehensive 

1 Pester Lloyd, June 1903. 



review of the position of India, when he modestly 
expressed the hope that from a period of stress and 
labour had perhaps emerged an India " better equipped 
to face the many problems which confront her, stronger 
and better guarded on her frontiers, with her agricul- 
ture, her industries, her commerce, her education, her 
irrigation, her railways, her army, and her police 
brought up to a higher state of ejBficiency — with every 
section of her administrative machinery in better repair, 
with her credit re-established, her currency restored, 
the material prosperity of her people enhanced, and 
their loyalty strengthened." ^ 

With courageous and far-seeing statesmen at the 
helm, backed by the heart and feeling of the British 
people, inspired by a true appreciation of the respon- 
sibilities of a world-wide Empire, the ship of State, 
whose ensign flies as the emblem of civilisation, peace, 
and justice on every sea, may be trusted to steer 
safely through the storm-tossed waters of the Eastern 

1 Speech on the Indian Budget, March 1904. 


Abbas, Joseph, 36, 75, 237. 

Abbott, Captain, 173. 

Abd us-Samad, prime minister of Bok- 
hara, 188. 

Abu Hurareh, 59. 

Achinsk, town of, 294. 

Adana, capital of Cilicia, 42, 47, 50, 
52, 88. 

Afforestation, effect on climate of 

Tashkent, 200. 
Afghanistan, 15, 19, 22, 166, 175. 
Afium Kara Hissar, 32. 
Afrasiab, city of, 193. 
Afrin, river, 88. 

Agha Mohammed, 173 ; Hamadan 

destroyed by, 130. 
Agriculture in Siberia, 268, 269. 
Aigun, treaty of (1858), 215, 267. 
Ain - ed - Dowleh, prime minister of 

Persia, 145. 
Aintab, town of, 92. 
Ak Keupri, 38, 40, 89. 
Ak Su, river, 226. 
Akmolinsk, territory of, 267. 
Aksu, town of, 214, 227. 
Ala-ed-Dowleh, 116. 
Alatau Mountains, 206. 
Albuquerque the Great, 16. 
Aleppo, town of, 52-55, 57, 58, 60, 

61, 85, 89, 91, 94. 
Alexander I., mysterious death of, 


Alexander 11. , 388. 
Alexander the Great, 39, 60, 129, 

"Alexander's House," at Tomsk, 280. 
Alexandretta, Gulf of, 89, 94. 
Alexandrovski Mountains, 206. 

Ali Pasha, commanding at Aleppo, 57, 

Alikhanoff, Colonel, 167, 175. 
Alp Arslan, 30. 

Altai, sport in the, chaps, xxi. and 
xxii. ; discovery as a sporting coun- 
try of the, 243 ; description of the 
country of the, 275 ; description of 
journey to the, 244-246. 

Altai mining district, the, 267, 268. 

Altin Imel, 207. 

America, 18. 

Amu Daria (ancient Oxus), 176. 

Amur, river, 303. 

Anatolia, 32. 

Anatolian railway, 32. 

Anazarba, town of, 41. 

Anchiale, town of, 46. 

Andijan, town of, 166, 168, 198. 

Andrew, railway schemes of, 85. 

Angara, river, 295. 

Anglo- Japanese alliance, the, 378. 

Anglo-Persian Convention of 1903, 

138, 142. 
Anglo-Persian trade, 141. 
Annenkoff, General, quoted, 163, 165 

Antioch, town of, 52, 88. 
Antung opened to foreign trade, 314. 
Apiculture in Siberia, 271. 
Arabia, 8. 

♦ Arabian Nights,' 6, 79. 

Arabs, 56, 58, 59, 62, 63, 67, 68, 74, 

75, 93 ; an encounter with, 63-66. 
Aral Sea, 172. 

Ardagh, Sir John, quoted, 376. 
Army corps, centres of, in Turkey, 95. 
Arslani Bell, the, 88. 



Ashkabad, town of, 171. 
Ashura (days of mourning), 133. 
Asia Minor, 43. 
Asshurnazirpal, King, 73. 
Assouan, dam of, 77, 78. 
Assyria, 6. 

Atabeg-Azam, prime minister of Persia, 

"Athalik Ghazi," Yakub Khan as- 
sumes title of, 211. 
Athens, 31. 
Aulie Ata, 207. 
Avicenna, tomb of, 125, 127. 
Ayas, Bay of, 44, 89. 
Azziz Khan, 112. 

Baber, Sultan, 193, 194. 
Babylon, 5, 7, 72, 73. 
Babylonia, 6 ; agricultural possibilities 
of, 77-79. 

Bacon, Francis, counsel of, to the 
traveller, 12. 

Bagch^, pass of, 88. 

Baghdad, 6, 58, 62, 79, 88 ; as a com- 
mercial centre, 80-83. 

Baghdad railway. See under Rail- 

Baghdad-Teheran trade-route, 115. 

Bahri Pasha, governor of Cilicia, 50. 

Baikal, Lake, 14, 302. 

Bain Chagan, valley of, 247, 248. 

Bairam Ali, ruins of old Merve at, 174. 

Baku, 112, and chap. xiv. 

Balakhani, oil-field of, 156, 157. 

Balfour, the Right Hon. A. J., quoted, 
101, 372. 

Balkash, Lake, 207, 208, 225. 

Baltistan, mountains of, 229. 

Baluchistan, 167, 169. 

Barasingh stag, 226. 

Barnaul, town of, 202, 244, 267, 271 ; 
description of, 274, 275. 

Basra, town of, 81, 82, 89. 

Beaconsfield, Lord, 326. 

Beazley, C. R., quoted, 16. 

Bekovitch, Prince, murdered by the 
Khivans, 173. 

Belgium, 18. 

Belik, river, 60, 92. 

Bell, Colonel Mark, quoted, 95 foot- 

Beveridge, A. J., quoted, 18, 324. 
Bibi Eibat, oil-field of, 158. 
Bibi Khanum, mosque of, 197. 
Bielinski, builder of bridge over the 
Oxus, 167. 

Biisk, town of, 245, 246, 263, 267, 
269, 271, 275. 

Birejik, town of, 88, 92. 

Bishop, Mrs, quoted. 111. 

Bisitun (Behistun), 122, 123. 

Black Sea Basin Agreement, 95. 

Blagoveschensk, town of, 17, 296. 

Bobaido, town of, 297. 

Bogle, Mr, envoy of Warren Hastings 
to Tibet, 362. 

Bokhara, 10, 12, 21, and chap, xvi.; 
attraction of, 179; bazaars of, 179; 
citadel of, 181, 183; diseases of, 
180, 181 ; present status of, 182, 
183 ; prison of, 185-187 ; Rigistan 
of, 181, 183; trade of, 190, 191; 
treaty of, 174, 363. 

Bosphorus, the, 20, 29-31. 

Bostan, rock sculptures of, 116-119. 

Boxer rising of 1900, 312. 

Bozanti, vale of, 37. 

Brown, Sir Thomas, quoted, 72. 

Bulgar Dagh, 35, 37, 87, 89. 

Bulgar Maden, silver-mine at, 38. 

Bunji plain, view from, 229. 

Burns, Sir Alexander, quoted, 181, 

Burnt column at Constantinople, 29. 
Bush, Mr H. Fulford, quoted, 313. 
Bushido, 391. 

Byzantium, 27, 31 ; vicissitudes of, 

Cairo, the dervishes of, 11. 
Calcutta Convention (1890), 348. 
Camels in Asia Minor, 90 ; failure of, 

in time of war, 165. 
Cape of Good Hope, passage round, 


Caspian, journey across, 168. 
Celestial Empire. See China. 
Central Asia, 21. 

Chagan Burgaza, valley of, 247, 248. 
Chald«a, 6, 7, 96, 109. 
Chaman, 175. 

Chambers, the Rev. W., 47. 
Chandra Das, babu, explorations of, 

in Tibet, 345 footnote, 346. 
Chapman, General, quoted, 394. 
Chardjui, 167, 176. 
Chehel Duckteran, 175. 
Chesney, railway schemes of, 85. 
Chifte Khan, 38. 

Chifu, town of, 310 ; Convention of 

(1876), 347. 
China, 14, 15, 22, and chaps, xxviii. 



and xxix. ; Russia stands security 
for, 371 ; reform movement in, 

Chino- Japan war (1894), 368. 

Chirol, Mr V., quoted, 221. 

Chita, town of, 303. 

Christie, the Rev. Dr, 45. 

Chukur Ova, the eastern portion of 

Cilicia, 41. 
Chumbi valley, fighting in, 221. 
Chunghou, Chinese official, 214. 
Church, Mr, quoted, 226. 
Chuya, river, 247, 276. 
Cicero, 39. 

Cicilian Gates, the, 37, 39 ; not to be 
traversed by the railway, 40, 88. 

Cilicia, 34, 40-42, 51, 52, 88, 90, and 
chap. iv. 

Cleopatra, 47. 

Communications, importance of, be- 
tween England, Australia, and the 
Far East, 22, 322 ; in Persia, 143, 
144, 338; lack of, in Turkey, 80-83; 
necessity of, in Siberia, 285. 

Conolly, Captain, 181 ; the story of, 

Constantino, Emperor, 27. 

Constantinople, 27, 29, 30, and chap, 

Convicts in Siberia, 294. 

Corruption in Turkey, 48, 49 ; in 
Russia, 388. 

Cossacks, 210, 389 ; conquest of 
Siberia by, 284. 

Cotton industry in Turkey, 50 ; in 
Central Asia, 202. 

Cumberland, Major, 243. 

Cuneiform writing, method of deci- 
phering discovered, 128. 

Curzon, Lord, quoted, 9, 22, 37 foot- 
note, 123, 133 footnote, 166, 180 
footnote, 182, 194, 322, 323, 336, 
337, 341, 352 footnote, 397. 

Cydnus, river, 44, 45, 47. 

Cyrus, 30, 39, 60. 

Dairy-farming in Siberia, 292, 

Dalni, town of, 161, 302 ; description 

of, 308. 
Damascus, 54, 55. 
Daniel, tomb of, 197. 
Darcy, oil concession, 112. 
Darius, 9, 30, 60, 107; inscriptions of, 

109, 121, 128 ; deciphered by Sir 

Henry Rawlinson, 129. 
David, tomb of, 114. 


Davidson, Mr J. W., quoted, 305 

footnote, 307 footnote. 
Deir-el-Zor, town of, 55, 57, 59, 60, 

62, 68. 
Deir Hafr, village of, 58. 
Demavend, Mount, 229. 
Demidofi", Prince, 243, 244, 248. 
Desert of Mesopotamia, 59, 63, 66, 

69, 92, and chap. vi. ; of Central 

Asia, 175, 176. 
Diala, river, 110. 

Diarbekr, town of, 55, 57, 89, 92. 
Diaz, Bartholomew, 16. 
Dinek Tash at Tarsus, 45, 46. 
Dinner-party, a curious, 113, 114. 
Dizful, 113. 

Dorjieff, at Lhassa, 220, 352. 
Douglas, Professor, quoted, 213, 347 

Dungans, the, 212. 

"East Chinese Railway Company," 

the, 301. 
Ecbatana, 129. 
Egypt, 139. 
Elias, Mr Ney, 243. 
Enzeli, 151. 

Eregli, village of, 35, 36, 87, 89. 

Erivan, town of, 144. 

Erzerum, treaty of, 139. 

Esarhaddon, 72. 

Eski Sher, 32. 

Esther, tomb of, 125-127. 

Euphrates, 7, 55, 57-60, 62, 85, 88. 

Far East, the, 21 ; question of, chaps. 

xxviii. and xxix. ; war in, 386-393. 
Ferghana, 21. 

Ferhad, of Persian myth, 110, 115. 
Ferhit Pasha, 33. 

Ferry across the Euphrates, 62 ; 
across the Hi, 228 ; across the 
Khabur, 66 ; across the Tekkes, 

Fire, natural, at Baku, 156. 
Fire-temple at Surah Khani, 157. 
France, 18. 

Gabet and Hue, Lazarist fathers, 

reach Lhassa, 345. 
Ganjnameh, the, 128. 
Gardens in the East, 8. 
Garter Mission, the, 337. 
Gaul, 31. 

Gavazzi, Modesto, quoted, 184 foot- 




Gazelle shot, 255. 

Genesis, quotations from, 7. 

Genoa, traders of, 31. 

Geok Su, river, 225. 

Geok Teppe, 12, 17, 166, 170. 

George III., remarks of, 19. 

Germanophobia in England, 98, 103. 

Germany, 18 ; at Constantinople, 327; 
promoters of the Baghdad Railway, 
chap. viii. 

Ghilan, province of, 147, 150. 

Giaour Dagh (ancient Amanus), 41, 
52, 88, 91. 

Gobi, desert of, 220. 

Gold law in Siberia, 297. 

Golden Horde, the, 284. 

Golden Horn, the, 27. 

Goldsmid, Sir F,, quoted, 80. 

Golovin, treaty of Nertchinsk con- 
cluded by (1689), 367. 

Goltz, General Von, 327. 

Gordon, General, summoned by China, 

Gotarzes, King of Parthia, inscriptions 
of, 123. 

Gozan, river, 7, 66. 

Granville, Lord, 174. 

Grotefend, first to decipher cuneiform 
writing, 128. 

Guffa, a Babylonian boat, 80. 

Guru, village of, 358. 

Guthrie, Mr, quoted, 156. 

Gyangtse, mission authorised to pro- 
ceed to, 356 ; occupied, 358. 

Habor, 66. 

Halah, 66, 114. 

Haleb. See Aleppo. 

Hamadan, 80, 124-130 ; population of, 

124 ; bazaars of, 125. 
Hamah, 54. 
Hamidiyeh, 50. 

Hammum Ali, hot baths of, 93. 

"Happy Valley," the, 248. 

Hardinge, Sir Arthur, 142, 145. 

Harran, 56, 57, 88, 92. 

Hart, Sir Robert, 347 footnote ; 
quoted, 366, 387, 390; scheme 
of Chinese reorganisation of, 381. 

Harthama, 192. 

Harun-al-Raschid, 30, 39. 

Hassan Beyli, village of, 52, 88. 

Hatzfeldt, Count, 327. 

Hazret Meviana, founder of Mevlevi 
dervishes, 33. 

Henry the Navigator, Prince, 15. 

Hephaestion, death of, 129. 
Herat, 175. 

Herodotus quoted, 78, 80, 107. 
Hippodrome at Constantinople, 29. 
Hit, 62. 

Hogarth, Mr, quoted, 58 footnote, 93. 
Hoh-Hah, Kalmuk hunter, 230. 
Holdich, Sir Thomas, quoted, 20. 
Homs, 54. 

Hosie, Consul, quoted, 385. 
Hulvan, river, 110. 

Ibex {Capra sibirica), chap. xx. ; a 48- 
inch head secured, 232; 46 -inch 
and 49-,ineh heads secured, 235 ;• 
a 4:6^ - inch head secured, 237 ; 
a 51| - inch head secured, 239 ; 
a 50-inch head secured, 240 ; horn 
measurements, 241. 

Ibrahim Pasha, 39, 56 ; depredations 
of, 92. 

Igde, Russian defeat at, 173. 

Ignatieff, General, 368. 

Hi, river, 207, 216, 225, 228. 

Imam Hussein Askar, tomb of, at 
Samara, 76. 

Imam Mohammed el Mahdi, mosque 
of, at Samara, 76. 

Immuration, an instance of. 111. 

"Imperial Ottoman Baghdad Rail- 
way Company," the, 101. 

India, 9, 19, 23 ; the pivot of British 
supremacy in Asia, 321, 396. 

Indo-Persian trade, 141. 

Irkutsk, 161, 270, 281 ; origin of, 
295 ; present status of, 295 ; gold- 
smelting laboratory of, 296. 

Irtish, river, 209, 284. 

Isaiah, quotation from, 8. 

Ishak Khan, at Samarkand, 198. 

Islayeh, 52. 

Ismid, town of, 32. 

Ismil, village of, 35. 

Issi Kul, lake, 207. 

Ivanoff, General, 199. 

Japan, 18 ; the soldier of, 390. 
Jebel Abdul Azziz, 56, 67. 
Jebel Nur, 41, 51. 
Jebel Tek Tek, 92. 
Jebiil, Lake, 57. 
Jengis Khan, 17, 192. 
Jeremiah, quotations from, 8. 
Jergol, Kalmuk hunter, 230. 
Jews at Hamadan, 124. 
Jihun, river, 51. 



Julfa, town of, 144. 

Justinian, builder of mosque of St 

Sophia, 30 ; course of river Cydnus 

diverted by, 45. 

Kagahn (New Bokhara), 177. 
Kaisariyeh, town of, 90. 
Kaleh Shergat, ruins of, 76. 
Kalgan, 220. 
Kalifate, the, 6. 

Kalmuks, 217, 225, 245, 275; hunters, 

228, 229, 231, 247, 248. 
Kandahar, 175, 
Kang Yi, 380. 
Kangavar, village of, 121. 
Kansk, town of, 294. 
Kara Bunar, village of, 35, 36, 89. 
Kara Su, river in Western China, 226. 
Kara Su, valley of, in Asia Minor, 52, 


Karaman, village of, 87, 89. 

Kashgar, 214, 227. 

Kashmir, 226, 229. 

Kasima, proposed terminus of the 

Baghdad railway, 89. 
Kasr-i-Shirin, 110, 113. 
Katl, ceremony of, 135. 
Kaufmann, General, 164, 174, 194, 


Kazimin, mosque of, at Baghdad, 81, 

Kazvin, town of, 144, 150. 
Kerbela, 89, 94. 

Kermanshah, 80 ; strategic position 
of, 115; population of, 116; sculp- 
tures of (see Bostan). 

Khabur, river, 56, 62, 66. 

Khamba Jong, 355. 

Khamurabi, King, 71. 

Khanikin, town of, 89, 110. 

Khanikoff, 190 ; quoted, 186, 189. 

Kharbin, town of, 302 ; description 
of, 304-308. 

Khingan Mountains, 304. 

Khiva, 170, 172-174. 

Khokand, 170, 198, 211. 

Khorgos, 207. 

Khosroe, King, 110. 

Khoten, 214. 

Kiachta, 220. 

Kiao Chau seized by Germany, 371. 
Killis, town of, 52, 54, 56, 88, 89, 91. 
King, Mr L. W., at Nineveh, 73 

Kings, quotations from the book of, 
66, 135. 

Kirgiz of Central Asia, 206, 217, 225, 

Kizil Arvat, 166, 170. 
Kizil Robat, 110. 
Knight, Mr E. F., quoted, 146. 
Kobdo, town of, 276. 
Kolpakofsky, General, 212. 
Koiaaroff, General, 167. 
Konia, town of, 32-35, 87, 89. 
Kopala, 207. 

Korea, Anglo-Russian agreement con- 
cerning (1886), 369. 

Kosh Agach, 245-247, 263, 275. 

Koshkhor, native name for wild ram, 
249, 256. 

Kowaik, river, 88, 

Koweit, 89 ; British ascendancy at, 

101 ; Turkish attacks upon, 337. 
Koyunjik, the mound of, 72, 73, 
Krasnovodsk, town of, 166, 169. 
Krasnoyarsk, town of, 279, 280, 294, 
Kulja, 207, 226, and chap. xix. ; 

taken by Russia, 212 ; present 
# position of, 215, 216; town of, 

216, 218 ; population of, 216-218 ; 

future of, 219, 220, 
Kumiss (mare's milk), 218, 
Kunetzsk, town of, 202, 267. 
Kurds, 56. 
Kurt Dagh, 52, 88. 
Kushid Khan Kala, the fort of Merve, 


Kushk, 168, 175. 
Kutchum, Tartar chief, 284. 
Kuzmitch, Feodor, 277, 280. 

Lamaism, 345. 
Landsell, Dr, 190. 

Lansdowne, Lord, quoted, 335, 338, 
343, 357, 384, 385. 

Layard, Sir A, H,, quoted, 67 foot- 
note, 69, 115 footnote, 121 footnote, 
124 footnote, 129. 

Lena Company, gold-mines of, 297. 

Leprosy, 180. 

Lessar, M., 166. 

Lesseps, M. de, 164, 201. 

Lhassa, Europeans at, 344 ; Russian 
intrigue at, 352, 358 ; advance of 
British mission to, 359. 

Li Hung Chang, 369. 

Liaotung peninsula, 301. 

Lima, oil-wells of, 161. 

Liquid fuel, 162 footnote. 

Liquorice, 59. 

Littledale, Mr, 244. 



Livadia, treaty of, 214. 
Lomakin, General, 164, 165, 170. 
Lu-tsu-han, Chinese official, 213. 
Lynch, Messrs, 81, 94. 

Macao, 16. 
Macedon, 31. 

Maclean, Mr H. W. , quoted, 339. 

MacMahon, Colonel, 143. 

Mahan, Captain A. T., quoted, 77, 321, 

325, 331, 335. 
Malleson, Colonel, quoted, 22. 
Malwiyeh, the, 76. 
Manas, 214. 

Manchuria, 4, and chaps, xxv,, xxviii,, 
and xxix. ; the plains of, 308 ; Rus- 
sian assurances concerning, 306 ; 
Russian enterprise in, 310-314. 

Manchurian Convention of 1902, 305, 

Manning, Mr, the only Englishman to 

visit Lhassa prior to the mission of 

1904, 344. 
Marash, town of, 52, 88, 92 ; death of 

kaimakam of, 38. 
Marcanda. See Samarkand. 
Mardin, town of, 55, 56, 92. 
Marghilan, 198. 
Mariinsk, town of, 294. 
Markosoff, General, defeated by the 

Khivans, 173. 
Marmot, 235. 
Massy, Colonel, 40. 
"Masterly inactivity," failure of a 

policy of, 21. 
Mersina, 40, 42-44, 50 ; unsuitable- 

ness of, as a port, 43, 91. 
Mersina and Tarsus-Adana railway, 

40, 86. 

Merve, Queen of the World, 10, 21, 

167, 168, 174. 
Meshed, 144, 171, 173. 
Meskineh, village of, 55, 57-59. 
Mesopotamia, 4, 6, 56, 62, 67. 
Mevlevi dervishes, tekke of, at Konia, 


Michie, Alexander, quoted, 315, 324, 

Miller, Mr, quoted, 307, 310. 
Minar Kalan, at Bokhara, 184. 
Missis, town of, 50. 
Missovaiya, 303. 
Mohammerah, port of, 113. 
Mongolia, 220 ; sport in, chap. xxii. ; 

trade of, 276. 
Mordecai, tomb of, 125-127. 

Moscow, 14, 17, 203, 244, 245, 273, 

Moslemah, 30. 
Mosque, ceremony at a, 10. 
Mossul, 5, 55, 56, 60, 62, 68, 69, 88, 

93 ; description of, 74. 
Motassem, 30. 

Muhammed II., conqueror of Constan- 
tinople, 31. 

Mukden, capital of Manchuria, 308 ; 
opened to foreign trade, 314 ; re- 
occupied by Russia in October 1903, 

Muravieff, Count, 21, 367 ; Amur 
region annexed by, 285. 

Muscat, relics of Portuguese suprem- 
acy at, 16. 

Mustapha Pasha, depredations of, 92. 

Muzart Pass, 227. 

Nadir Shah, 173, 183, 197. 
Nahs, 239. 

Nain Sing reaches Lhassa, 345 foot- 

Nakarreh Khaneh (drum-tower), 117. 
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, quoted, 119, 120. 
Nasratabad, 143. 

Nasrullah, King of Bokhara, 181, 187; 

character of, 188. 
Naus, M., 142. 

Near East, fascination of, 7 ; the cities 
of, 9 ; British policy in, 98 ; the 
question of, chap. xxvi. ; the ques- 
tion mainly a strategic one, 325. 

Nebi Yunus, mound of, 72. 

Nebuchadnezzar, 7, 72. 

Nejef, 94. 

Nertchinsk, treaty of, 21, 284. 
Newmarch, Major, Resident at Bagh- 
dad, 81. 

Nicholas L, Tsar of Russia, policy of, 

Nicholas, the Grand Duke, steams up 
the Golden Horn, 326. 

Niebuhr, drawings of inscriptions of 
Persepolis made by, 128. 

Nimrud, the mound of, 73, 76. 

Nineveh, 5, 72, 73. 

Nissibin, 56, 88, 92. 

Nitob^, Inazo, quoted, 391, 392. 

Niuchwang, treaty port, 311 ; situ- 
ation at, in autumn 1903, 313. 

Norman, Mr Henry, quoted, 190, 273, 
286, 388, 389. 

Novo Nicholaewsk, settlement of, 273, 



' Novoe Vremya,' quotations from, 

Nurah, Kalmuk hunter, 230. 
Nushki-Sistan trade-route, 140, 339. 

Oannes, the fish god, 6. 

Ob, 244, 245, 263. 

O'Donovan, Mr, 174. , 

Oil-wells in Persia, 112; at Baku, 

Oil-trade, statistics of, 159-162. 
Okhotsk, Sea of, 284. 
Old Testament, the scene of the story 

of, 7, 66. 
Oleg, 326. 

Olives, groves of, near Aleppo, 57. 

Omsk, town of, 209. 

Onguidai, village of, 245, 246, 263, 
275, 276. 

Orenburg, town of, 183. 

"Orient Express," 30. 

Oriyaas, river, 226, 227 ; beauty of 
scenery of, 228, 229. 

Orlandi, Giovanni, 183; death of, 184. 

Osmaniyeh, village of, 51, 52. 

Ovis Ammon, chaps, xxi. and xxii. ; 
first seen, 249 ; first ram shot, 250 ; 
four large rams sighted, 251 ; a 57- 
inch head secured, 259 ; a 55-inch 
head secured, 261 ; a successful 
right-and-left, 261 ; horn measure- 
ments, 263. 

Oxus, bridge across, 167, 176. 

Pakhobofif, Ivan, founder of Irkutsk, 

Palmerston, Lord, deputation to, in 
1857, 87. 

Pamirs, the, 20. 

Paris, treaty of, 139. 

Peacock throne, the, 134. 

Peking, 14, 21, 314; treaty of (1860), 
367 ; occupied by England and 
France, 367. 

Pendjeh incident, the, 167. 

Pennsylvania, oil-wells of, 161. 

Percy, Earl, quoted, 37 footnote. 

Persia, 4, 6, 15, 19, 22, and chaps, 
ix.-xiii. ; a piece on the Eastern 
chess-board, 330-343. 

Persian amenities, 116; characteristics, 
107, 108 ; loan of 1900, 333 ; rail- 
way convention of 1890, 334 ; tariff 
of 1903, 139, 140. 

Perso- Afghan boundary of 1872, 142. 

Peter the Great, 388. 

Petrusevitch, General, transport scheme 

of, 165. 
Phunsah, 60. 

Piru, inscriptions of, 109, 121. 
Pishpek, 207. 

Pistachio-trees near Aleppo, 57. 

Polonoshnaya, proposed junction of 
Tomsk-Tashkent and Siberian rail- 
ways, 202. 

Pombo, Kalmuk hunter, 248-250, 253, 
256, 258-262. 

Porsuk, 90. 

Port Arthur, 14, 300, 302, 308 ; port 
charges introduced at, 309 ; incident 
of, 371 ; Russian convention con- 
cerning, 373. 

Porter, Sir R. Ker, quoted, 122, 124, 

Portugal, 16. 

Possiet Bay, 367. 

Post-road in Asia, 12 ; travelling on, 
204, 205 ; rate of speed attained 
on, 205 ; the Biisk - Kosh Agach 
road, 245. 

Prestige, importance of, in the East, 

Pyramus, river, 44. 

Rabino, Mr H., 115. 
Railways — 

The Anatolian, 32. 

The Baghdad, 32, 56, 79, 83, 328, 
329, and chap. viii. ; present pos- 
ition of, 101, 102 ; tra.c4 of, 87. 

The Damascus-Aleppo, 95. 

The East Chinese, chap. xxv. 

The Euphrates valley, 87. 

The Haida-Pasha-Ismid, 86. 

The Hurnai and Bolan, 167. 

The Mersina-Adana, 88. 

The Murgab, 175. 

The Orenburg-Tashkent, 164, 201. 

The Quetta-Nushki, 340, 341. 

The Smyrna-Aidin, 86. 

The Smyrna-Cassaba, 86. 

The Tomsk-Tashkent, 202, 268. 

The Transcaspian, chap. ix. ; origin 
of, 163-166 ; construction of, 167, 
168 ; journey over, 168-177. 

The Trans-Siberian, 244, and chap, 
xxiv. ; early schemes, 286 ; the 
inauguration of, 288 ; the cost of, 
288 ; description of, 289 ; cost of 
travelling on, 289 ; defects of, 
Rakka, 60, 




Ramazan, fast of, 29. 

Rambaud, Alfred, quoted, 278. 

Ramsay, Professor, quoted, 38, 39, 90 

Ras-el-Ain, 56, 57, 88, 92. 

Rawlinson, Sir H., inscriptions de- 
ciphered by, 122; quoted, 332. 

Rebecca, well of, 92. 

Resht, capital of Ghilan, 150. 

Rhages, ruins of, 136. 

Bishta, worm, 180. 

Roads in the East, 35, 37. 

Roe-deer, Asiastic, 226. 

Rome, 31. 

Russell, Dr, quoted, 54. 

Russia, 13, 17-22 ; enterprise of, in 

Persia, 148, 149 ; organisation in, 

387 ; the soldier of, 389 ; troops of, 

in Manchuria, 304. 
Russo-Persian Convention of 1901, 

138 ; railway convention of 1890, 


Saadi, the Persian poet, quoted, 194. 
Sabkah, 60. 
Sadiyeh, 89. 

St Paul's Institute at Tarsus, 45. 

St Petersburg, treaty of (1881), 215 ; 

made capital of Russia, 285. 
St Sophia, mosque of, 30. 
Sajur, river, 88. 

Salaiire, coal and iron mines at, 202. 

Salisbury, Lord, 351 ; quoted, 378. 

Samara, town of, 76. 

Samarkand, 10, 12, 33, 170, and chap, 
xvii. ; capital of Timur, 193; cap- 
tured by the Russians, 194, 195 ; 
monuments of, 195-197 ; the Rigis- 
tan at, 196. 

Sardanapalus, 45, 46. 

Sar-i-pul, 114. 

Saros, river, 44, 47. 

Sarts of Central Asia, 218. 

Saxsaul, shrub, 176. 

Schemai, the ataman, 172. 

Schlumberger quoted, 48 footnote, 

SchouvalofF, Count, 174. 
Schuyler, Mr E., 190; quoted, 197, 
207, 213. 

Semipalatinsk, 202, 267 ; population 

of, 208 ; town of, 209. 
Semirechensk, 207. 
Sennacherib, 7- 
Sergiopol, town of, 208. 
Seyid-ibn-'Othman, 192. 

Shah, Mozuffer-a-Din, interview with, 

Shah Zindeh, mosque of, 197. 
Shahraban, village of, 110. 
Shahrisabs, town of, 195. 
Shakespeare, Sir Richmond, 173. 
Shalmanezer, 66, 73. 
Sharrukin, King of Agad^, 71. 
Shehdadi, 56, 66. 

Shimonoseki, treaty of, 369 ; Russian 

note to Japan as a result of, 369. 
Shinar, land of, 7. 
Shir Khan, 113. 

Shirin, the bride of King Khosroe, 
110, 115. 

Shumir and Accad, the land of, 6, 7. 
Shushter, 113. 

Siberia, 4, 13, 14, 208, and chaps. 

xxiii. and xxiv. ; conquest of, 283 ; 

villages of, 271 ; peasants of, 272. 
Sikkim Convention (1893), 348. 
Simpson, Mr J. Y., quoted, 269, 271, 

273, 279. 

Sinjar Mountains, 56, 57, 66, 67, 69. 
Sistan, 143. 

Skobeleff, General, 166, 170. 
Skrine and Ross quoted, 168 footnote, 

Smuggling on the Siberian frontier, 

Sparta, 31. 

Sport in the Thian Shan, chap. xx. ; in 
Mongolia, chaps, xxi. and xxil. 

Stambul. See Constantinople. 

"State lotteries concession," 333. 

Stempel, Major, 194. 

Stoddart, Colonel, 181 ; the story of, 

Storks, 110. 

Story-teller of Asia, the, 110, 196. 
Strabo quoted, 46. 
Stretensk, 303. 
StroganofF, merchants, 283. 
Stumm, Herr, quoted, 217. 
Suidon, 215. 
Suleiman, 30. 
Sungari, river, 306. 
Surah Khani, 157. 

Swayne, Major H. G. C, 244, 246 

Ta-Shih-Chiao, junction for Niuch- 

wang and Peking, 308. 
Tabriz, Russian engineers at, 144. 
Taganrog, death of Alexander I. at, 




Taigar, junction for Tomsk, 292. 
Talienwan, 372. 
Tamarisk, 59. 
Tamerlane. See Timur. 
Taotai, Chinese official, visit to, 219. 
Tarantass, description of, 12, 203. 
Tarantchis, 212, 217. 
Tarsus, town of, 37, 41-43, 45, 46, 50. 
Tashkent, 12, 164, 168, 170, 198-200. 
Taurus Mountains, 37, 41, 88, 89, 229. 
Tavernier quoted, 6. 
Tazziehs (religious plays in Persia), 

Tchakid Su, 38, 40, 88, 90. 
TchernaieflF, General, 166, 207 ; Tash- 
kent captured by, 200. 
Tchernayevo, 198. 

Tchimkent, 170, 202; capture of, 

Teheran, chap. xi. ; gates of, 132, 133; 

palace at, 134. 
Teheran-Resht road, 148. 
Tekir plateau, 38. 
Tekkes valley, 217, 225, 226, 240. 
Tekrit, 76. 
Tel Habesch, 54, 89. 
Telegraph concession in Persia, 338, 


Tent, drawbacks to, 6. 
Tewfic Pasha, 33. 

Thapsacus identified with Tipsah, 60. 

Thian Shan Mountains, 211, 226. 

Tiari Mountains, 69. 

Tibet, 15, 19, 22, 220, and chap, 
xxvii. ; situation summed up by the 
Government of India, 350 ; appear- 
ance of Russia, 351 ; reported 
Russo-Chinese convention concern- 
ing, 353 ; suggested solution of the 
Tibetan problem, 361. 

Tientsin, treaty of (1861), 312, 373. 

Tigris, 5, 7, 57, 69, 88 ; a journey 
down, 75-79 ; the lands of, chap, 

Time the destroyer, 72. 

Timur (Tamerlane), 10, 17, 30, 92, 
192; Hamadan destroyed by, 130; 
personal appearance, 193, 194 ; tomb 
of, 197. 

Tobolsk, 267. 

Toghrul Bey, 30. 

Togo, Admiral, 387. 

Tomsk, government of, 245, 267-277 ; 
town of, 277 ; the mystery of, 278- 
280 ; university at, 280 ; technolo- 
gical institute at, 281. 

Toprak Kalek, 51. 

Transcaspia, 4, 15, 21. 

Trypanni, Messrs, cotton manufac- 
turers, 50. 

Tseng, Marquis, concludes treaty of 
St Petersburg, 215. 

Tso-Chungt-'ang, General, 213. 

Tsybikoff, Professor, at Lhassa, 220. 

Turkestan, 4, 10, 15, 164, 170, 206, 
221, and chap, xviii. 

Turkey, 15, 22 ; a piece on the Eastern 
chess-board, 325-329 ; a suggested 
solution of the Turkish problem, 

Turkey in Asia, 4, 10, and chaps, ii.- 

viii. ; maladministration in, 55. 
Turkomania, 10, 21. 
Turkomans, 170. 

Tze-hsi-tuan-yu, Dowager-Empress of 
China, 380. 

Ukhtomski, Prince, quoted, 221. 
Uliissatai, 276. 
Ulukishla, 37. 

Unification of the Ottoman debt, 

Ural Mountains, 283, 284. 
Urfa, town of, 92. 

Urga, capital of Mongolia, 220, 

Urumtsi, town of, 214. 
Ussuri line inaugurated, 14. 
Usun Hassan, 30. 

Vaharan IV. , founder of Kermanshah, 

Vambery, Professor, 190, 395. . 

Vasco da Gama, 16, 282. 

Venice, traders of, 31. 

Verefkin, Colonel, 207. 

Vermin pit at Bokhara, 189. 

Verni, town of, 202, 207. 

Vladimir quoted, 300 footnote, 303 

Vladivostok, 14, 299. 

Vodka, 272-274 ; Government mono- 
poly of, 273. 

Waddell, L. A., quoted, 346. 
Wapiti, Asiastic, 226. 
Waugh, Consul, quoted, 91 footnote, 

Wei-hai-Wei, 300, 314, 378. 
Whigham, Mr A. J., quoted, 82. 
Willcocks, Sir William, irrigation 
scheme of, 77-79. 



William, Emperor of Germany, 85, 

Witte, M. de, 165. 

Wolff, the Rev. Joseph, quoted, 67 
footnote, 172 footnote, 173 footnote, 
184 footnote, 188-190 ; journey to 
Bokhara, 182, 189. 

Wolves, 260. 

Worontzoff, Count, ambassador to 
George III., 19. 

Xenophon, 73. 

Xerxes, 9, 30 ; inscription of, 128. 

Yaik Cossacks, 172. 
Yakub Khan, 211, 212, 214. 
Yakubieh, village of, 110. 
Yakutsk, 290. 
Yarkand, 214. 

Yatung, 349. 
"Yellow Peril," the, 13. 
Yeniseisk government, 267. 
Yermak, 283, 284. 
Yezidis, 67. 

Yomud Turkomans, 174. 
Younghusband, Colonel F. E., 324, 

Yugra, the land of, 283. 
Yumurtalik, 89. 

Zagros Gates, 6, 115. 
Zaptieh, 36, 50. 
Zeminogorsk, 267, 271, 272. 
Zend Avesta, 157. 
Zerafshan, 21, 170, 176. 
Zingerli, excavations at, 52. 
Zobair, 89. 
Zoroaster, 157. 






DS Zetland, Lawrence John 

9 Lumley Oundas 

24 On the outskirts of 

empire in Asia